Reviewing the Review: October 16 2005

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After a lifetime of not being sure whether or not I liked the work of John Updike, I've gradually come to the conclusion that he will one day be remembered as the Henry James of our generation. Since that revelation I've appreciated his occasional published pieces much more, and I was very glad to see him turn up on the cover on today's New York Times Book Review with a consideration of a thick and provocative new coffee-table art book, New Art City by Jed Perl.

Updike recently wrote a novel that evoked the biography of Jackson Pollock, and is generally a great authority on the topic of with 20th Century art. He writes well (as Updike is wont to do) in his review of Perl's production:

The thesis of the book, to be blunt about it, is that art in Manhattan passed in midcentury and beyond from the nighttime creations of existential, heroic, romantic, art-history minded revolutionaries hardened in the 30's to the daytime works of empirical, eclectic, enheroic, relatively theory-free individualists who had ripened in the shadow of the action-painting giants.

I don't know if the nighttime/daytime thing comes from Updike or Perl, but either way I like it. Only one complaint -- next time Updike shows up in the Book Review, maybe he could write about books instead of about art.

Once again, the Book Review misses the best literary moments in the day's paper. The Week In Review section, in a repeat of last week's victory, kicks the Book Review's ass with an excellent piece on Harold Pinter by Charles Isherwood followed by a hilarious news item about USA Supreme Court candidate Harriet Meirs. When John Roberts was being evaluated for his new position as Chief Justice, he was widely praised in the press for his fluid and sharp writing. Now they're reviewing Harriet Miers' published papers, and apparently she lacks that touch. The Times excerpts this sentence as apparently one of many examples:

We have to understand and appreciate that achieving justice for all is in jeapordy before a call to arms to assist in obtaining support for the justice system to be effective.

Funny stuff! That's the kind of scoop reporting I like, and once again it didn't appear in the Book Review ...
This article is part of the series Reviewing the New York Times Book Review. The next post in the series is Reviewing the Review: October 23 2005. The previous post in the series is Reviewing the Review: October 9 2005.
2 Responses to "Reviewing the Review: October 16 2005"

by Billectric on

Run, Supreme Court, RunI'm glad you quoted the thesis of the art book. It is an interesting thought.As for Harriet Miers' lack of writing skill, good Lord. I'm flashing back to Dan Quayle.

by slog on

UpdikeHis writing is so great, I don't know why we all love to hate the guy so much. Take my word for it, I'd prefer him to any American popular writer if I had no one else to read and I was in jail.