Quotations by Updike, John


An author that’s in now might be out in ten years. And vice-versa. Who knows when the final sifting is done, in the year 2050, say, who will be read of my generation? You’d like to think you will be one. But there has to be a constant weeding that goes on. The Victorians read all kinds of writers who we don’t have time for now. Who reads Thackeray? An educated person reads Dickens, or reads some Dickens. But Thackeray?

John Updike (1932-2009) American writer
“As close as you can get to the stars,” Interview with Dwight Garner Salon (2000)
Added on 25-Sep-12 | Last updated 25-Sep-12
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In the old movies, yes, there always was the happy ending and order was restored. As it is in Shakespeare’s plays. It’s no disgrace to, in the end, restore order. And punish the wicked and, in some way, reward the righteous.

John Updike (1932-2009) American writer
“As close as you can get to the stars,” Interview with Dwight Garner, Salon (2000)
Added on 11-Sep-12 | Last updated 11-Sep-12
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A healthy male adult bore consumes each year one and a half times his own weight in other people’s patience.

John Updike (1932-2009) American writer
“Confessions of a Wild Bore,” Assorted Prose (1965)
Added on 23-Mar-16 | Last updated 2-May-16
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If God created the world, He created sex, and one way to construe our inexhaustible sexual interest is as a form of the praise of creation. Says the Song of Solomon, “The joints of thy thighs are like jewels; the work of the hands of a cunning workman.”

John Updike (1932-2009) American writer
“Even the Bible is Soft on Sex,” New York Times Book Review (20 Jun 1993)

Song of Solomon 7:1 (KJV)
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Writers take words seriously — perhaps the last professional class that does — and they struggle to steer their own through the crosswinds of meddling editors and careless typesetters and obtuse and malevolent reviewers into the lap of the ideal reader.

John Updike (1932-2009) American writer
“Writers on Themselves,” New York Times (17 Aug 1986)
Added on 31-Jul-12 | Last updated 31-Jul-12
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We take our bearings, daily, from others. To be sane is, to a great extent, to be sociable.

John Updike (1932-2009) American writer
Christian Science Monitor (5 Mar 1979)
Added on 18-Apr-11 | Last updated 2-May-12
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Perfectionism is the enemy of creation, as extreme self-solicitude is the enemy of well-being.

John Updike (1932-2009) American writer
Odd Jobs (1991)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 2-May-12
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Creativity is merely a plus name for regular activity; the ditchdigger, dentist, and artist go about their tasks in much the same way, and any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or better.

John Updike (1932-2009) American writer
Picked-Up Pieces, Foreward (1966)
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I secretly understood: the primitive appeal of the hearth. Television is — its irresistible charm — a fire.

John Updike (1932-2009) American writer
Roger’s Version (1986)

On a child doing homework in front of the TV set.
Added on 17-Jul-12 | Last updated 17-Jul-12
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To say that war is madness is like saying that sex is madness: true enough, from the standpoint of a stateless eunuch, but merely a provocative epigram for those who must make their arrangements in the world as given.

John Updike (1932-2009) American writer
Self-Consciousness: Memoirs, ch. 4 (1989)
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Among the repulsions of atheism for me has been its drastic uninterestingness as an intellectual position. Where was the ingenuity, the ambiguity, the humanity (in the Harvard sense) of saying that the universe just happened to happen and that when we’re dead we’re dead?

John Updike (1932-2009) American writer
Self-Consciousness: Memoirs, ch. 4 (1989)
Added on 7-Aug-12 | Last updated 7-Aug-12
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The yearning for an afterlife is the opposite of selfish: it is love and praise for the world that we are privileged, in this complex interval of light, to witness and experience.

John Updike (1932-2009) American writer
Self-Consciousness: Memoirs, ch. 6 (1989)
Added on 14-Aug-12 | Last updated 14-Aug-12
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Celebrity is a mask that eats into the face. As soon as one is aware of being “somebody,” to be watched and listened to with extra interest, input ceases, and the performer goes blind and deaf in his overanimation. One can either see or be seen.

John Updike (1932-2009) American writer
Self-Consciousness: Memoirs, ch. 6 (1989)
Added on 28-Aug-12 | Last updated 28-Aug-12
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Our brains are no longer conditioned for reverence and awe. We cannot imagine a Second Coming that would not be cut down to size by the televised evening news, or a Last Judgment not subject to pages of holier-than-Thou second-guessing in The New York Review of Books.

John Updike (1932-2009) American writer
Self-Consciousness: Memoirs, ch. 6 (1989)
Added on 4-Sep-12 | Last updated 4-Sep-12
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We feel safe, huddled within human institutions — churches, banks, madrigal groups — but these concoctions melt away at the basic moment. The self’s responsibility, then, is to achieve rapport if not rapture with the giant, cosmic other: to appreciate, let’s say, the walk back from the mailbox.

John Updike (1932-2009) American writer
Self-Consciousness: Memoirs, closing words (1989)
Added on 22-Oct-13 | Last updated 22-Oct-13
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Life is like an overlong drama through which we sit being nagged by the vague memories of having read the reviews.

John Updike (1932-2009) American writer
The Coup (1978)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 2-May-12
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A leader is one who, out of madness or goodness, volunteers to take upon himself the woe of the people. There are few men so foolish, hence the erratic quality of leadership in the world.

John Updike (1932-2009) American writer
The Coup (1978)
Added on 12-Jul-12 | Last updated 12-Jul-12
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Customs and convictions change; respectable people are the last to know, or to admit, the change, and the ones most offended by fresh reflections of the facts in the mirror of art.

John Updike (1932-2009) American writer
The New Yorker (30 Jul 1990)
Added on 24-Jul-12 | Last updated 24-Jul-12
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That a marriage ends is less than ideal; but all things end under heaven, and if temporality is held to be invalidating, then nothing real succeeds.

John Updike (1932-2009) American writer
Too Far To Go, foreword (1979)
Added on 3-Jul-12 | Last updated 29-Jun-12
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The refusal to rest content, the willingness to risk excess on behalf of one’s obsessions, is what distinguishes artists from entertainers, and what makes some artists adventurers on behalf of us all.

John Updike (1932-2009) American writer
In Studies in J. D. Salinger : Reviews, Essays, and Critiques of The Catcher in the Rye and other Fiction, ed. M. Laser and N. Fruman (1963)

On J. D. Saliger, from a review of Salinger's Franny and Zooey.
Added on 12-Jun-12 | Last updated 12-Jun-12
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I think “taste” is a social concept and not an artistic one. I’m willing to show good taste, if I can, in somebody else’s living room, but our reading life is too short for a writer to be in any way polite. Since his words enter into another’s brain in silence and intimacy, he should be as honest and explicit as we are with ourselves.

John Updike (1932-2009) American writer
Interview, New York Times Book Review (10 Apr 1977)
Added on 19-Jun-12 | Last updated 19-Jun-12
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We are most alive when we’re in love.

John Updike (1932-2009) American writer
Interview, in Naim Attalah, Singular Encounters (1990)
Added on 29-Aug-11 | Last updated 29-Aug-11
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