Monday, July 09, 2012

Five best books on writers' lives

Peter Collier's new book is Political Woman: The Big Little Life of Jeane Kirkpatrick.

One of his five best books about writers' lives, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
by John Updike (1989)

Here is the definitive rebuke of the silly idea that John Updike wrote well but had nothing to say. Updike's jeweled literacy and his sly persona are on full view, but so too is his wide-ranging and merciless intelligence. In a series of essays that also function as a reader's guide for his relentlessly autobiographical fiction, he discusses growing up in Shillington, Pa., as a solitary boy striving somewhat pathetically for acceptance but always aware that he was "a literary spy within average, public-school, supermarket America" and later as a young adult in Ipswich, Mass., where he was "a stag of sorts in our herd of housewife-does . . . greedy for my quota of life's pleasures, a distracted, mediocre father and worse husband." One intriguing chapter talks of the implications of his efforts to deal with lifelong bouts of psoriasis and the fear that "my self-obsession on the epidermal level has deadened those feelers that sentimentally interact with the rest of mankind." Another discusses his refusal to join other literary figures protesting the war in Vietnam, a testament to the ruggedness of the individuality always on attractive display in this profound book.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue