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January 28, 2009

Rabbit runs no more

Updike Modern American literary legend John Updike has died.

As an undergraduate English major, I struggled through Updike's The Centaur in a class on literary criticism. The Greek mythology and Christian metaphor seemed to bury the story too deep for real enjoyment. Suffice it to say that I have read very little Updike since, although I have one of his more famous paperbacks on my bookshelf, in the pile of things to be read some day. 

A quick search for The Centaur turned up this article published a few years ago in Theology Today that just might inspire me to give it another try: 

As a Christian himself, Updike takes the Christian myth seriously and makes considerable use of it in his fiction. Not surprisingly, then, Olinger High is not only Olympus but also Bethlehem, and Caldwell is not only Chiron but also Christ. Christ-like as well as Chiron-like, George Caldwell relinquishes his immortality and dies to self. He does so by staying in the classroom, by resisting the temptation posed by Vera/Venus, by remaining faithful to his wife and family. In any number of small and not so small ways, Caldwell becomes, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer said of Jesus, "the man for others." He freely gives his gloves to a tramp. He generously gives an insulting drunk his last handful of change. He constantly gives guidance and encouragement to his students. He gives his very life, and the shelter it provides, for his son. There is humor in George Caldwell's antic generosity and steep self-deprecation, but there is also a genuine reflection of the self-giving Christ of the Christian story.

(Image © Doug Elbinger)

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Comments

Gina Dalfonzo

Professor Ross's class? I had to read "The Centaur" for him too. Strangely, I remember not one thing about it. (Apologies to the late Mr. Updike!)

Leann

I'm always saddened when authors die. My American Lit professor absolutely loved The Rabbit series. I checked out Rabbit Run from the library about a year ago but I just didn't have time to read it. I really need to because he won all kinds of awards for those books and I really respect my former professor's taste in literature. I'm pleased to know Mr. Updike was a Christian. RIP.

Kristine

Yes, Gina, the great Clyde Ross taught my lit crit class. I guess I can be thankful that we didn't have to read Ulysses instead!

vikingmother

You can search online and find Updike's razor sharp poem
"7 stanzas at EAster"
I quote 1 stanza...

"Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall...."


Gina Dalfonzo

Thanks for the reminder -- I vaguely remember that poem, and it's a good one!

It should be mentioned that some of his work was sexually explicit. There's a debate going on in The Corner about whether he took it too far, and what his reasons were. There are too many posts to link to all of them, but go to http://corner.nationalreview.com and keep scrolling down (or, if you prefer chronological order, start at the bottom and keep scrolling up).

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