Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"Old Girlfriends," by David Updike

Until a recent trip to the Mill Valley Friends of the Library book sale (which I have mentioned several times on this blog as a favorite source of books), I hadn’t realized, or at least hadn’t remembered, that the late great John Updike’s son David Updike is also a published writer of fiction. (Such instances always make me wonder, as I imagine they do you, what it must be like to be the child of a famous author who also wants to write. Of course there must be advantages regarding role modeling, influence, and access, but what a burden to be constantly and very publicly compared with one's parent.) At the sale, I picked up Updike Junior's short story collection, “Old Girlfriends” (St. Martin’s, 2009). It turns out he has published several books, including a quartet of books for “young readers.” He also illustrated a children’s book written by his father. Although it may not be fair to read the son’s work in the light of the father’s, I of course couldn’t resist doing so. However, as I read, that focus faded. There are definitely influences from the senior Updike’s writing, not only in style but also in settings and subject matter (families, relationships, infidelity, suburbia). Surprisingly, though, I also detected -- in some of the stories -- the stylistic influence of Hemingway. But because the main focus is on human relationships, and because the stories are well written, I enjoyed this collection. Would I go out of my way to find more of David Updike’s work? Probably not. But if I ran across another of his books, I would pick it up and leaf through it, and possibly buy or borrow it.

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