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Updike, rewrites, goodnight Eli

After the “Rabbit” books – my favourite gang of bound pages - reading Updike’s “Couples” has been a disappointment. The characters intermingle; none of them are pleasant; they are all obsessed with ageing and fucking and don’t seem to feel anything. Nor did I. For the first time I understood Martin Amis’s phrase, “suspiciously frictionless” – it’s all so smooth and lovely and easy, there is never any dirt or danger, you suspect that Updike himself found affairs and divorces easy, a good-looking, successful man with never any hint of failure at his fingernails, a glass figurine untouched by all he destroyed. The dialogue is pitiful: I hate to say this John, but – builders don’t talk like that. Not in Tarbox; not anywhere. They might, plausibly, think like that – but could never say it.

Meanwhile I’m getting through the rewrite: I kept trying to put aside a week, a month, but there was never time: too much work, too much going on. So instead I vowed to work on at least 10 pages every day until I reach the end. Not easy: did 10 on Saturday night in a student halls in King’s Cross overlooking Pentonville Road, after being up since 5 am and working all day at IBT; then, Sunday morning, set the alarm early. No tea or coffee in the room so just water as I did another 10.

On Monday L had work, so I took her in, home, out to dentist, all while someone was doing the electrics – did 10 pages. Tuesday, kids both off school (Emma a temperature, Sean out in sympathy) – 10 pages. (Monday and Tuesday night also working for IBT from home 7-12). This morning I borrowed L’s laptop, did 10 pages on the 7:47 to LST. Not easy: but feel so good. When I reach the end in a week or two I can print it out…

Till then: no updates. I am not here.

p.s. Goodnight, Eli Wallach. Stunning performance in “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” – and in “Godfather III”, both of which I watched recently.

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