Higher Gossip

Essays and Criticism

Publisher: Knopf
A collection both intimate and generous of the eloquent, insightful, beautifully written prose works that John Updike was compiling when he died in January 2009.

This collection of miscellaneous prose opens with a self-portrait of the writer in winter, a Prospero who, though he fears his most dazzling performances are behind him, reveals himself in every sentence to be in deep conversation with the sources of his magic. It concludes with a moving meditation on a modern world robbed of imagination--a world without religion, without art--and on the difficulties of faith in a disbelieving age. In between are previously uncollected stories and poems, a pageant of scenes from seventeenth-century Massachusetts, five late "golf dreams," and several of Updike's commentaries on his own work. At the heart of the book are his matchless reviews--of John Cheever, Ann Patchett, Toni Morrison, William Maxwell, John le Carré, and essays on Aimee Semple McPherson, Max Factor, and Albert Einstein, among others. Also included are two decades of art criticism--on Chardin, El Greco, Blake, Turner, Van Gogh, Max Ernest, and more.

Updike's criticism is gossip of the highest order, delivered in an intimate and generous voice.

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THE WRITER IN WINTER

Young or old, a writer sends a book into the world, not himself. There is no Senior Tour for authors, with the tees shortened by twenty yards and carts allowed. No mercy is extended by the reviewers; but, then, it is not extended to the rookie writer, either. He or she may feel, as the gray-...
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PRAISE FOR

“For my money . . . the late John Updike was the best American belletrist ever, and Higher Gossip . . . confirms everything I’ve believed about his brilliance, his versatility, and his depth.”—Larry McMurty, Harper’s
 
“As [Higher Gossip] reminds us, Updike was that rare creature: an all-around man of letters, a literary decathlete who brought to his criticism an insider’s understanding of craft and technique; a first-class appreciator of talent, capable of describing other artists’ work with nimble, pictorial brilliance; an ebullient observer, who could bring to essays about dinosaurs or golf or even the theory of relativity a contagious, boyish sense of wonder.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
 
“A timely reminder of the graceful companionship that Updike offered to his readers—a presence that will be sorely missed.”—The Christian Science Monitor