literary 09


JULIAN BARNES The main literary event of 2009 was the death of John Updike. Generous to the last, he left us two posthumous books: in prose, My Father’s Tears, and in verse, Endpoint (both Hamish Hamilton), an account of his last years – and days – of grateful, tender looking around. He was still writing in his final weeks (“Days later, the results came casually through: / the gland, biopsied, showed metastasis”) and correcting proofs on his deathbed. Over here, death afforded him no courtesy, and the stories received several reviews of impudent stupidity; the longer view will see them as a fit end to the staggeringly rich arc of story collections which began fifty years ago with “The Same Door” (1959). In part-homage, Everyman usefully reprinted the full version of “The Maples Stories”, one of his keenest anatomies of the marriage problem. Everyman also publish Updike’s final reworking of the Rabbit quartet, retitled by him as Rabbit Angstrom. Rereading confirms it as the greatest American novel of the second half of the twentieth century. An Angstrom is a hundred-millionth of a centimetre: a fitting name, since Updike, apart from his many other virtues, simply saw in finer detail than most of his contemporaries.

more from various literary bigwigs at the TLS here.