Hugging the Shore: Essays and Criticism by John Updike

Several years ago I read every single book John Updike wrote. I fell in love with Memories of the Ford Administration and, the way i remember it, Updike was all I read for the next couple years.

I picked up the book entirely by chance. I was visiting my sister in Iowa City (where she was in school)-A few friends friends came along: Lauren, Mary, Marlese, Carl? Seems like a pretty packed car, but that’s the way I remember it-Or, maybe Mary didn’t come along??

I don’t remember much from that trip-Just that I picked up Memories of the Ford Administration from a used book shop, and that my sister was horrible.

In any case, Memories of the Ford Administration cost me maybe $.99-I remember picking it from the “bargain” shelf at the front of the store. I’m not sure why I picked it up-I assume it was the book’s spine, title, in some measure.

In any case, here I am, so many years later, reading this anthology of Updike’s “essays and criticisms.” I am hoping this format will work well for me-I find that I do not have the interest in fiction that I used to, nor the attention span for many hundreds of pages on just one topic.

That said, don’t short essays and criticism from a favorite novelist sound just right for me?

I’m less than 50 pages in but already recognize the empathetic prose I first recognized in Memories of the Ford Administration.

Experience is so vicarious these days, only reminiscence makes it real.

Pretty, no?

But in an odd way i realized I wish he would have said something just a little bit different-Something like “Experience is so impermanent these days, only reminiscence makes it real.”

I think about, for instance, the times I have seen Dream Theater over the years (one of my favorite rock bands, dating back to high school)-Always so exciting for me-And realize: I can’t remember definitively which songs I have heard them play. Am I conflating performances I have seen live with recorded performances?

Or, I think: If, I didn’t have pictures of me standing with my friends Matt and Luke with the band, how insubstantial would those experiences be? If I didn’t have “evidence,” which provide me with particular details that seem to substantiate the experiences: the length of my hair at the time, the glasses or hat I wore, etc.

How can I “make more” of the April 30th show I’m anticipating? (“Make more” as in “make the most of.”)

Do I really need evidence?

for posterity

Years ago I learned that Bill Gates drops everything when a new Vaclav Smil book becomes available; he has to read it right away. (I think Wired magazine mentioned it.) So, for the next year, maybe more, any time I stopped by Half Price Books I’d check for Smil titles.

It was humorous to me, because I never new exactly where to look (i.e. which section-Technology, Energy, Environment Science), and I don’t like asking for help. Half the fun of shopping for used books is “just coming across” a book.

Anyway, this is all beside the point. Eventually I found Smil’s Energy at the Crossroads.

Sadly, the book is far too dense for me. It is like a textbook. Yet, I do see how someone like Bill Gates-Who I believe has as much money and good intentions as anyone else-Could really savor such a book. If I were in the fortunate position where I could direct billions of dollars toward benevolent causes, I would want to do so wisely. Reading Energy at the Crossroads-Such a comprehensive, conscientious book-May actually inform a interested non-expert how to “do something” wisely.

I mentioned this is all beside the point before, but I didn’t elaborate what “this” is, nor what “the point” is. The point is: I later learned Bill Gates has a blog…Where he selectively posts book reviews:

Somewhere in the ellipses I thought: If Bill Gates has the time to do such a thing, then I do. Or, more to the point: If he thinks that time is well spent, then maybe I will.

The frequency of posts will determine whether this bears out 🙂