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in which 2 dead writers cure my writer’s block

May 17, 2009

Have been on one of those writerly dry spells of late. The symptoms of which include: blankly staring at a spotless sheet of paper, hearing crickets immediately upon picking up a pen, and sudden irresistible urge to paint toe nails, re-organize pantry, or other equally pointless thing just to avoid the merciless blank page.  

The upside is that I’ve been able to catch up on my reading. Am so miserably far behind- only on the February 9 & 16 issue of the New Yorker, and only into the 4th end note of riveting but immense Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (who committed suicide last September), not to mention scads of read-worthy online journals and blogs. Sometimes I experience panic attacks over all the things I will never get to read in my lifetime. And then I remember Harlequin romance novels.

Anyway, travel and reading have been the time-proven dispeller of writer’s block for me. But given the current shortage of time and funds, as mentioned, I’ve been assiduously reading.

Good thing because there’s a fantastic section in the New Yorker on John Updike, recently deceased brilliant man of letters: Picked-Up Pieces, Moments from a half century of Updike. The author was apparently immune to blockage of any sort, as he had more than 800 contributions to the prestigious magazine, in addition to his vast compendium of books. Yes, thoroughly jealous, but can hardly compare myself to one such as Updike; that would be like comparing apples to cotton balls.

But wait, there’s more! Not only is he prolific, his body of New Yorker work alone is so multifarious, it took the editors 16 pages consisting of 46 excerpts to narrow down the best selection of his writing by way of homage. And we are talking about a magazine with a total of 120 pages tops, unless it’s a special edition. Now he’s just showing off.

Here is my favorite of the 46 selections:

From “Problems”:

       1. During the night, A, though sleeping with B, dreams of C. C stands at the furthest extremity or (if the image is considered two-dimensionally) the apogee of a curved driveway, perhaps a dream-refraction of the driveway of the house that had once been their shared home. Her figure, though small in the perspective, is vivid, clad in a tomato-red summer dress; her head is thrown back, her hands are on her hips, and her legs have taken a wide, confident stance. She is flaunting herself, perhaps laughing; his impression is of intense female vitality, his emotion is of longing. He awakes troubled. The sleep of B beside him is not disturbed; she rests in the certainty that A loves her. Indeed, he has left C for her, to prove it.

       PROBLEM: Which has he more profoundly betrayed, B or C?

So standard Updike- smart, straightforward, emotionally acute. He will be sorely missed.

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