cover image Odd Jobs: Essays and Criticism

Odd Jobs: Essays and Criticism

John Updike. Alfred A. Knopf, $35 (919pp) ISBN 978-0-679-40414-9

An amazingly prolific man of letters, Updike serves up a feast in this massive compilation of essays, speeches, prefaces, a playlet and dozens of book reviews, the latter of which make up the bulk of the book. In conversational, urbane, witty prose he offers a dizzying smorgasbord of opinions on baseball, pop music, architecture, national monuments, the Gospel of St. Matthew, Ben Franklin, Mozart's music (it ``gives us permission to live'') and the modern artist as courter of risk and danger. While his portrayal of women as ``reasonable and right'' non-protesters, a trait he implies is biogenic, smacks of male chauvinism, he is more enlightening in discussing Eros and men's mythologizing of women's bodies. Along with appreciations of Edmund Wilson (``a paragon of intellectual energy and curiosity'') and John Cheever, there are travel pieces ranging from Finland to dysfunctional New York City. Whatever the topic, Updike never fails to offer a perspicacious comment and fresh observation. BOMC alternate. (Nov.)