Monday, February 4, 2008
THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK by John Updike
Updike's Witches of Eastwick disappoints. It's a very well-written and very poorly constructed book, a fact that suggests Updike spent so much time polishing his prose (to an admittedly lovely shine) that he had none left to devote to story construction, narrative arc, sufficient character development, and all the other things that good narrative fiction requires. And Updike can't weasel out of responsibility with a "postmodernist's pass." This is no work of Kunderan or Calvinoesque avant-gardisme; it's a traditional American Romance (infused with a particularly nasty strain of traditional misogyny and Reagan-era anti-liberalism), and it's not built well enough to pass muster. I suspect that the book was well-reviewed and remains highly regarded (this was the one Updike novel included in Harold Bloom's notorious 'canon,' for example) because readers are blinded by Updike's stylistic pyrotechnics--i.e. his highly figurative prose--and cannot see that he has no real story to tell.