“Her hair was a miracle, spread out on the pillow in the morning light, a lustrous mass, every filament the same lucid black, a black that held red light within it as matter holds heat—whereas even of the hairs on his toes some had turned white. Gold names on an honor roll. As a character, Merissa would become a redhead, with that vulnerable freckled pallor redheads have and overlarge, uneven, earnest front teeth. Merrisa’s teeth were so perfectly spaced they seemed machined. Like her eyelashes. Stars with a talent for squad-drill. As she laughed, divulging the slippery grotto beyond her palate, Bech felt abhorrence rising in his throat. He looked toward the window; an airplane was descending from a ceiling of gray.”
John Updike


“William James once remarked that his brother, Henry, chewed more than he bit off; the same might be said of Mr. Updike who, to put it more flatteringly, tends to focus narrowly, almost obsessively, on the reality at hand. He records the minute fluctuations of feeling that occur as people move bodily through time, falling in and out of love, suffering the usual mortal indignities, experiencing small joys and occasional moments of grace.

The medium of these transactions is the famous Updike style: fluent to a fault, rich in metaphor, rising to exquisite heights in places, toppling elsewhere into preciousness and affectation. Such a style, with its necessary subjugation of plot and character, is more serviceable in briefer forms; as a consequence, Mr. Updike has excelled at the short story.”
Jay Parini


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