Friday, April 07, 2006

John Updike Wrote This

From his new novel Terrorist. This is a love scene between a 63-year-old guidance counselor and the mother of a fundamentalist teen he's concerned about.

"Jesus," says Jack Levy. "This is what life is all about. I'd forgotten, and never expected anybody to remind me." Thus guardedly, in these circumstances, without naming her, he pays tribute of a sort to his wife, who long ago had her turn at showing what life was all about.

Teresa Mulloy, naked beside him, agrees. "It is," but then adds, in self-protection, "but it doesn't last." Her face, with its round shape and slightly protuberant eyes, is flushed so that her freckles blend in, pale brown on pink.

A few seconds later--Ed.

Her rosy flush becomes the high color that follows the sting of a rebuke, a facing of her defenselessness in this dead-end adventure, another married boyfriend. He will never leave his fat Beth, and would she want him to in any case? He is twenty-three years older than she is, and she needs a man to last her the rest of her life.

Summer has attained July's swelter in New Jersey, but even so, feeling the air as cool on their love-flushed skins, the lovers have drawn up the top sheet, rumpled and damp from having been beneath their bodies. Jack sits up against the pillow, exposing the slack muscles and grey froth of his chest, and she with lovable bohemian immodesty, has pulled her side of the sheet no higher, so her breasts, white as soap where the sun never touches them, jut free for him to admire and to feel the heft again if he desires....When in fucking she sits on his lap, impaling herself on his erection, he feels the colors reflected from her walls flow down her sides along with his hands, her elongating, rib-filled, preening, Irish-white sides. With Beth, he can't imagine her weight on his pelvis, or her legs spread far enough apart; they have run out of positions, except for the spoon, and even there her huge ass pushes him away like a jealous child in their bed.

Alrighty. That's probably enough. Oh wait--a few more paragraphs later there's this:

She tugs with one hand and then with both the bit of nylon smartly up; the cedar-colored patch of frizzy hair puffs out, in its moment of capture, above the elastic waistband like the head on a suddenly poured beer.

I hope I haven't offended anybody. But I came across this at work, and could not believe how unintentionally hilarious this was. Is this classic Updike? I feel like I should stop admitting just what Important Fiction I haven't read around here, should I ever want to write for The New Yorker, but whenever I've tried to read Updike, other than his criticism, a fog descends, and I roll over and go back to sleep, ample laps and breasts floating before my eyes like terrorizing sunspots. I suppose I was also scandalized by the awful earthbound tin-eared cliched nature of the sex scene--it reminded me of that scene in Match Point where Jonathan Rhys-Myers hovers above Scarlett Johansson with a Costco-sized bottle of oil in a tableau that is meant to signify the Unhingedly Sensual. But what it really signifies is A Septugenarian Thinks This Is Unhingedly Sensual. By the way, whenever I hear the word "sensual" I get a feeling that whatever it's describing is more clinical than anything else.