Ah yes, the genre I mentally refer to as "wanking suburbia" -- whether it's men or women -- and have utterly no sympathy for.
I've never read more than a few chapters of an Updike novel and have no intention of doing so. I loved Trustee from the Toolroom though and I'm currently re-reading the Deed of Paksenarrion -- which is infinitely more interesting than the angst of any whiney upper-middle class over privileged twit who really should get over him/herself!
I agree totally with the "everyday hero" preference.
I wish I could find a copy of "Trustee from the Toolroom"; I've only read it once and that around 30 years ago when I had first discovered Shute in the local library.
My mother introduced me to him, and then I found his books in the library. _Trustee from the Toolroom_ was my mother's favorite, and I found her a copy in a used bookstore years later and gave it to her for her birthday. Now I have it...and it re-reads very well.
Thank you. Now I don't feel quite as guilty for despising Updike and Steinbeck as I used to.
Florence King did a nicely scathing epistolary review of Updike's works entitled "Phallus in Wonderland" which summed up so many of the things that you and I both dislike about his plots, characters, and writing style. :)
I did finally find one book of his (_In the Beauty of the Lilies_) that I was able to finish, because part of it dealt with being a Presbyterian and losing and leaving one's faith in search of something else. _That_, I could identify with! :) But that overall genre of "unhappy suburban men" (what I always thought of as "New Yorker fiction" -- until they recently published Nabokov ;) ) is about as uninteresting to me as novels where women spend a lot of time shopping....
I tried to read The Witches of Eastwick once - but it's a much better movie.
I wonder if, in 2109, he'll be remembered as a spokesman for the immature and thoughtless mid-twentieth-century suburbanite?
2009-01-29 02:35 am (UTC)
you are my hero.
I haven't read "Trustee from the Toolroom", but I did enjoy Shute's No Highway, which has a similar theme. I'll admit that I haven't read any Updike either, but in defense of Roth, his novel The Plot Against America moves away from the "unhappy white-collar male suburbanite" sub-genre into parallel history that's quite nightmarish, if overlong, with characters who have at least some cause for self-pity. And while I'm not a huge fan of Steinbeck, his most successful works dealt more with the rural poor rather than the maudlin suburban middle class.
That said, I can see why publishers working in large cities might be biased towards novels about the perceived problems of unhappy middle-class male suburbanites who have money to spend on books :-)
Steinbeck wrote some books I like very much--_Cannery Row_ for instance, and there's another one set in California that I liked (title's escaping me.) I don't blame him for _The Red Pony_ being called a children's book, but it did put me off his work for awhile. One summer in high school I read a *lot* of Steinbeck (anything I could find in paperback, and thus afford, and that my mother didn't already own.)
But _The Winter of Our Discontent_, set in a northeastern suburb, isn't what I thought of as a Steinbeck...and I didn't like it.
Maybe 15-20 years ago, when I had had several books publishedI picked up a New Yorker (I used to love Pauline Kael's movie reviews, Audax Minor on racing, the cartoons and often teh articles) and at the foot of a review of a novel, there was a sentence that for years I could quote verbatim (but not now.) Basically the reviewer took the position that you couldn't expect reliable advice on living from novelists, because they lived lives isolated from ordinary responsibilities and people. And I thought "Yeah, if you're a young male living alone in a garret, maybe...but do you really think that's how most books are written?"
I was forced to read him in college, and I agree wholeheartedly with your last statement. Him and John Cheever, among others.
For me, the best (and pretty much the only readable) Steinbeck is Travels with Charley in Search of America. But I am a connoisseur of road memoirs.
When I was younger I would attempt to read some of his writings but get bored very quickly. Now I know why. Thanks for your thoughts. Now I don't feel as if I missed something. When I remember my live journal name I will ask if you will consider adding me. Meanwhile you have my e-mail.
A. W. Thomas
(My daughter attends McHi, which is how I found your interesting journal)
That pretty much expresses what I've been feeling, too. The literary canon is full of men-centred writing, much of it good, but not for me.
My dad - who left school at 16 to support his widowed mother and younger sister - loved Nevil Shute, and I grew up on his books. Dad was one of those people who could make anything and he taught me to appreciate craftsmanship and dedication and integrity - worlds away from the well-off middle class whingers that made me so impatient with Updike and Sinclair. I didn't like their passive women, either!
Thanks for expressing it so well, Capitaine. In a way I'm relieved to no longer feel a freak for not appreciating a whole genre.
I'd just like to add a hearty "Amen."
A Town Like Alice has long been one of my favorite books, but for some reason I never looked at any of Shute's others. I may see if I can pick up Trustee from the Toolroom over the weekend; our public library system doesn't have it at my branch but does at another not too far away.
Never read any Updike, and these comments are not inspiring me to run out and find some.
I liked _A Town Like Alice_, too...in fact, the only Shute I didn't much like was his most famous, _On the Beach_. Have you read _The Rainbow and the Rose_?
No, but I see the library has it, too. :-)