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John Updike on the Pleasures of Writing (page two)

Quotations From John Updike on the Art and Craft of Writing

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John Updike on the Pleasures of Writing (page two)

John Updike (1932-2009)

photo by Martha Updike
  • Verbal Elegance
    You know the saying that you should write invisibly, that writing should be invisible. I think people know they're reading a book, and that this object in front of them is a page of words. What I really like in a book is the sense that the writing is itself entertaining, or interesting, or it makes you want to read a sentence twice.
    (Academy of Achievement, June 12, 2004)

  • On Words
    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.
    (Introduction to Writers at Work, Seventh Series, 1986)

  • On the Death of the Book
    In imagining a huge, virtually infinite wordstream accessed by search engines and populated by teeming, promiscuous word snippets stripped of credited authorship, are we not depriving the written word of its old-fashioned function of, through such inventions as the written alphabet and the printing press, communication from one person to another--of, in short, accountability and intimacy? Yes, there is a ton of information on the Web, but much of it is egregiously inaccurate, unedited, unattributed and juvenile. The electronic marvels that abound around us serve, surprisingly, to inflame what is most informally and noncritically human about us.
    ("The End of Authorship," adapted from Updike's address to booksellers at the BookExpo America convention in Washington, D.C., in May 2006)

  • Advice to Young Writers
    To the young writers, I would merely say, "Try to develop actual work habits, and even though you have a busy life, try to reserve an hour say--or more--a day to write." Some very good things have been written on an hour a day. . . . So, take it seriously, you know, just set a quota. Try to think of communicating with some ideal reader somewhere. Try to think of getting into print. Don't be content just to call yourself a writer and then bitch about the crass publishing world that won't run your stuff. We're still a capitalist country, and writing to some degree is a capitalist enterprise, when it's not a total sin to try to make a living and court an audience. "Read what excites you," would be advice, and even if you don't imitate it you will learn from it. . . . I would like to think that in a country this large--and a language even larger--that there ought to be a living in it for somebody who cares, and wants to entertain and instruct a reader.
    (Academy of Achievement, June 12, 2004)
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