Higher Gossip

John Updike, Christopher Carduff (ed.)

Higher Gossip

Gossip of a higher sort' was how the incomparable John Updike described the art of the review. Here then is the last collection of his best gossip. Influential reviews of Toni Morrison, John le Carré and Ann Patchett and expert critique on exhibitions of El Greco, Van Gogh and Schiele are included alongside previously uncollected short stories, poems and essays on his 'pet topics'. Following earlier prose collections More Matter and Due Considerations, Updike began compiling Higher Gossip shortly before his death in 2009. It displays his characteristic humour and insight on subjects as varied as ageing, golf, dinosaurs, make-up and his own fiction. 4.1 out of 5 based on 7 reviews
Higher Gossip

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Literary Studies & Criticism
Format Hardback
Pages 528
RRP
Date of Publication May 2012
ISBN 978-0241145524
Publisher Hamish Hamilton
 

Gossip of a higher sort' was how the incomparable John Updike described the art of the review. Here then is the last collection of his best gossip. Influential reviews of Toni Morrison, John le Carré and Ann Patchett and expert critique on exhibitions of El Greco, Van Gogh and Schiele are included alongside previously uncollected short stories, poems and essays on his 'pet topics'. Following earlier prose collections More Matter and Due Considerations, Updike began compiling Higher Gossip shortly before his death in 2009. It displays his characteristic humour and insight on subjects as varied as ageing, golf, dinosaurs, make-up and his own fiction.

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Reviews

The Spectator

Richard Davenport-Hines

The book, which is a joy to read for anyone who cherishes literary intelligence, dispels misgivings about him as a novelist, and indeed is an incitement to re-read the fiction with a less impatient spirit. Updike is perhaps best of all — temperate, canny and revealing — when he writes about fellow novelists, and celebrates in them some of his own traits and tricks.

19/05/2012

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The Sunday Times

David Mills

The latest pieces date from the last months of his life (he died in January 2009, aged 76), while there are also some from the 1970s. Updike was as aware as anyone that “among the rivals besetting an ageing writer is his younger, nimbler self” as he puts it here while looking back on his writing life; but the quality he maintains is astonishing. Take, for instance, his evocation of an early 20th-century American family house. It’s the small details that tell: not only does he recall the framed embroidered mottoes, but he captures how the silks faded with light and time, the blues “to the pallor of ice”, the reds “cold, like wet clay”, and he links into how everything in old homes is smoothed and used, like grandfather’s leather wallet “worn papery by the rubbing of time”.

20/05/2012

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The Sunday Telegraph

Robert Douglas-Fairhurst

Sometimes, it is true, this collection produces the hollow sound that comes from tapping a barrel that is almost empty. Some of the weaker pieces, on gardening or imaginary conversations in the dry cleaners, are unlikely to do much to enhance Updike’s reputation, and seem to have been driven by little more than the need to meet a deadline ... But then you turn the page and encounter his description of F Scott Fitzgerald’s “uproariously disintegrating sophisticates”, or the “hum of secluded peace” that surrounds the women in Vermeer’s paintings, and you realise it’s only because of the high standards he sets elsewhere that you’re disappointed at an occasional sentence that doesn’t ring as clear as a bell.

21/05/2012

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The New York Times

Andrew Delbanco

… a deftly edited reminder of what a prodigy we have lost … Updike was frequently given to indulging his gift for image-making, and so there is a certain literary vanity on display in “Higher Gossip” ... But if the blue pencil might have been deployed a little more, the rewards of “Higher Gossip” far outweigh its defects. The essays on art — from Tilman Riemenschneider to Egon Schiele — are a special pleasure, informative but personal, meticulously attentive to technique and effect, composed with almost wistful awe by a writer who had once hoped to be an artist himself.

10/11/2011

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The Observer

Adam Mars-Jones

Once or twice in the book Updike excels himself, once or twice he falls short of his own standards, and once or twice he produces work which stands at an odd angle to his usual preoccupations. One example is The Beloved … In one of his finest late novels, Seek My Face (2002), Updike's refusal to enter the gay world imaginatively compromised his achievement ... His conflicts are nearer the surface in The Beloved, and it's clear that his attitude was closer to a willed withholding of interest than an untroubled dismissal. Few people want to read about gay sex but even fewer, surely, want to read about golf. Yet the pages on this subject provide some of the book's high points.

27/05/2012

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The Evening Standard

David Sexton

The truth is that John Updike, by far the most prolific contributor to the New Yorker, wrote so much, both in fiction and non-fiction, that only the most dedicated reader would want it all, for, although it is, in his ready and polished way, all good enough, or really very good of its kind, or even excellent sometimes, almost none of it is great, let alone essential.

17/05/2012

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The New York Times

Michiko Kakutani

... a somewhat more scattershot affair than his earlier nonfiction collections. It lacks the deeply thought-out literary essays (on American masters like Hawthorne and Melville) and the sustained critical investigations of the author’s distinguished contemporaries (like Philip Roth and Saul Bellow) ... At the same time, however, “Higher Gossip” offers the reader plenty of palpable pleasures, reminding us of the author’s sorcererlike ability to evoke the worlds other artists created with a simple wave of his wand, and his talent for making scholarly topics feel utterly immediate and real.

28/11/2011

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