Tuesday, February 03, 2009
I know there's been a lot written about Updike - but has there been enough? If, for example, Barack Obama or Tony Blair had died, the coverage would have been Updike squared if not cubed. Yet the death of an age's great artist is surely infinitely more important than that of one of its politicians. Do you know, for example, who was Prime Minister when Dickens published Bleak House? Of course, you don't (it was the Earl of Aberdeen... who he?). I suppose, at the time, Forgotten Aberdeen, as we must now call him, would have seemed much more important than the publication of a novel. Not now, Bleak House stands like a rock and poor old Forgotten doesn't stand at all. That's the point - except for a few rare exceptions, all politicians are of their time and nothing more. History diminishes them by turning them into pawns of its hindsight narratives. But, for centuries, Updike will be read and discussed. Our strutting, fretting leaders will, along with us, have vanished.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 12:27 pm