It is true that I am the author of the Rabbit books and a bunch of others whose titles you can’t think of. But the Rabbit books, maybe, it’s not an entirely—maybe I deserve this. They wrote themselves fairly easily, I loved discovering the present tense. Somehow when you dismiss the past tense, you’re free, you bounce along, things just happen in front of you without being explained. I think explaining is pretty deadly in fiction and the present tense eliminates the need for that, and also I was lucky in this locale, the county, Diamond County, I think it’s called, where the four novels, four and a half novels take place, is my home turf. It’s Berks County in Pennsylvania. And there is a warmth that a child feels and he also feels that the people around him are impressive, they’re enormous, these are grownups. Nobody you meet in later life is going to seem quite as big to you as the people that you knew in childhood, and so working with this childhood soil, they were pretty fertile, it was good ground for me to delve in, I discovered, I didn’t know this before I began, but in fact the people talked easily, they interacted amusingly, the landscape, the cityscape was always there to be described and, so, yeah, I can’t quarrel with it.
It is sad for me in a way that so many other of my books may be passé. Couples was my only really best-seller, my attempt to describe the American middle class and its adjustment to the sexual revolution, the disruption of many marriages, the general loss of a sense of the sacred and sacred vows, all that has been the fuel of many other novels. There’s a trilogy upon The Scarlet Letter, where the triangle interested me, and each point of the triangle got a voice in an individual novel. Some of my later novels amused me fearfully, there’s a science fiction novel called Toward the End of Time, about basically dying, but dying in a future where you might be glad to be dead. So yes, yes and no, I’m pleased, and yet I hope my other books can be enjoyed and read too.
The late John Updike in response to the question: which of your novels you would like to be represented by?
Updike came to the LIVE stage in 2006 to discuss his book Terrorist with Jeffrey Goldberg. After he passed in 2009, we held a tribute show to him with David Remnick, Adam Gopnik, Judith Jones, Deborah Garrison and more. Watch/Listen to Updike at LIVE here… and watch/listen to the tribute show here…