Anglican Samizdat

February 14, 2009

Talent Redux

Filed under: Pop-Culture — David Jenkins @ 10:29 am

I have always thought that J. B. Priestley’s view of his own work could well apply to John Updike; not that Updike would have the modesty to admit it. Priestley thought of himself as a talented, but not great novelist.

So while I don’t think that John Updike was a great novelist, I do agree that he was a spiritual failure:

John Updike, who died two weeks ago, was certainly a great novelist; his books are Add an Imageintelligent without being clever-clever, and are highly readable. And he was the only major novelist of recent times who was interested in Protestant theology (a massive plus-point for me). So I ought to be a big fan, and for a while I was, but the more I read, the less sure I became. It perhaps sounds an unpleasant thing to say about a recently deceased person, but I see him as a spiritual failure.

This is somewhat redeeming, though:

But he said some great things along the way, including this nice little anticipation of Dawkins: ‘Among the repulsiveness of atheism for me has been its drastic uninterestingness as an intellectual position.’


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