Great essay by Updike biographer Adam Begely on how John Updike pulled his fiction from the facts of his life:
No one was spared: not his parents, not his two wives, not his four children—as he conceded in Self-Consciousness, he exempted himself from “normal intra-familial courtesy.” Or, more bluntly: “the nearer and dearer they are, the more mercilessly they are served up.” In a heartbreaking interview for a 1982 public-television documentary, What Makes Rabbit Run, Updike’s eldest son, David, acknowledged that his father “decided at an early age that his writing had to take precedence over his relations with real people.” Later in the film Updike frankly concurred: “My duty as a writer is to make the best record I can of life as I understand it, and that duty takes precedence for me over all these other considerations.” The writing took precedence even over his personal reputation: Some of Updike’s alter egos are convincingly hideous individuals. “I drank up women’s tears and spat them out,” he wrote in a late confessional poem, “as 10-point Janson, Roman and ital.”
Heavy and sad stuff. I’m reading The Olinger Stories right now, and enjoying about half of it immensely.