Tuesday, June 22, 2010

'A world where books were a common currency of an enlightened citizenry'

“We do not need men like Proust and Joyce; men like this are a luxury, an added fillip that an abundant culture can produce only after the more basic literary need has been filled. This age needs rather men like Shakespeare, or Milton, or Pope; men who are filled with the strength of their cultures and do not transcend the limits of their age, but, working within the times, bring what is peculiar to the moment to glory. We need great artists who are willing to accept restrictions, and who love their environments with such vitality that they can produce an epic out of the Protestant ethic” [--a prescient formulation of what he would later achieve in the Rabbit novels and his Pennsylvania short stories.] “Whatever the many failings of my work, let it stand as a manifesto of my love for the time in which I was born.”

-- John Updike in 1951, in a letter to his parents; he was 19, on the cusp of launching a literary career that would make him one of the greatest writers of his age--“a world where books were a common currency of an enlightened citizenry,” as he later put it

1 comment:

beektur said...

Should we take this seriously? He was 19. But of course he had since then become profilic in "NOT transcending the limits of (his) age...(instead) working within (his) times, (blissful in his willingness) to accept restrictions. That was 1951. I don't know what times he was referring to because within and around this decade came out Malraux, Camus, Sartre, Borges, Mishima, Lessing....writers who were not restricted by their times and instead transcended their age, ANY age, to make us realize not just what we are but more importantly what we are capable of becoming.

I guess, that's the problem with most american writers of that age, esp the three Johns (Cheever, Updike, Hershey)and Philip Roth. They are great documentors of their immediate age and their sorrounding. Which is great, if they worked for CNN or PBS. If not, not. No wonder the Nobel committee has accused American writers of being parochial.

In that sense, I hope Philippine literature will continue being understanding toward FSJ! Just don't him push his envelop too far.(Sinama talaga).

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