Friday, June 13, 2008
Nicholson Baker writes the strangest little books. This one is about an odd fixation developed over John Updike and the influence of Updike and how Updike affects Baker's writing and ideas about what writers should be. It's often hilarious, because Baker has this obsession but really hasn't read much of Updike at all, including most of the novels, and yet certain mis-remembered images and passages from Updike's stories and essays have stuck with him. He also remembers his mother reading Updike and laughing her ass off.
Baker often creates characters with strange and startling obsessions. I think of the time-stopping pornographically-minded serial ejaculator in The Fermata, or the zany wannabe Bush assassin in Checkpoint. Great characters who go off on great Stanley Elkin rants. Here Baker himself goes off on great luxurious rants.
I liked U and I but would recommend it only for those like myself who are mired in the pseudo-intelligentsia, afraid or otherwise unwilling to read more complicamated fare at this time.
And re Updike, check out Gore Vidal's "Rabbit's Own Burrow" for an unapologetic and contemptuous dismissal of Updike's popular novels about Rabbit Angstrom.