Some of my work on Updike was discussed on The Dish with Andrew Sullivan.
Some of my work on Ross Macdonald was discussed on Pretty Sinister Books.
Here is my interview with superstar music impresario Wendy Starland.
Here is my interview with Pulitzer Prize nominee Olympia Vernon.
Here is my interview with the editor of Best American Short Stories, Heidi Pitlor.
Here is my interview with acclaimed artist Emil Kazaz.
My musing on John D. Macdonald, Travis McGee, and the chicks was picked up on The Rap Sheet.

Biting Dead Skin off Your Thumb in DeLillo





Peter
Quinones
Postmodern
Connect with Peter Quinones via Friend Request on Facebook:

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Deconstruction
Madhouse
      
                        Reflections on Bellow, Updike and DeLillo


Players: "He went to the smoking area, where he saw Frank McKechnie standing at the edge of a noisy group, biting skin from his thumb."
The Names (about Frank Volterra): "He wore dark glasses and kept biting skin from the edge of his thumb.”
Cosmopolis: “He sat down and looked at Chin, who was biting dead skin at the side of his thumbnail.”
Point Omega: “ “Bites the skin off the edge of his thumbnail, always the right thumb, still do it, loose piece of dead skin, that’s how I know who I am.” “

What about this?






Vol 1: Random Notes on Updike's THE CENTAUR

Peter
Quinones
Postmodern
Deconstruction
Madhouse

Vol 1: Random Notes on Updike’s THE CENTAUR

THIS MATERIAL COPYRIGHT 2014 by PETER QUINONES



 At a certain point, it seems to me, it's legitimate to wonder at what juncture the fiction stops becoming a reflection of real life instead of vice versa - that is, is it possible that a writer has the thought, "I'm going to behave this way and that way in my actual life so I can write about it in my work and make the claim 'the fiction is autobiographical' " ?

Vol 1: Random Notes on Updike's THE CENTAUR

Peter
Quinones
Postmodern
Deconstruction
Madhouse

Vol 1: Random Notes on Updike’s THE CENTAUR

THIS MATERIAL COPYRIGHT 2014 by PETER QUINONES


            Going by my general reading experience, I believe I can say with a fair degree of confidence that I could read fifty, or perhaps even a hundred, novels in a row and not encounter the word “plangent” even a single time; surprising, therefore, to see Updike use it in three novels in a row:

“The sickly plangent odor filled the titled volume.” - The Centaur
“I spoke with a voice that – slightly plangent and quick – did not seem mine, though it arose within me.”  - Of the Farm
“Piet,” she said plangently.  – Couples

            I have neither the desire nor the ability to comb through all of Updike’s work, but on this evidence it wouldn’t surprise me to see “plangent” pop up quite a few more times.  So what?  What is the significance of this - that writers tend to latch on to favorite words?  I have no idea.  It could well be entirely coincidental and meaningless.  I would like to see what a psychiatrist or a cognitive psychologist would have to say on this subject (surely if there ever existed an author whose life, mind and writing are goldmines for psychiatrists and psychologists it’s John Updike).  I do know, for certain, that great writers in general – not just Updike – have a tendency to repeat words, phrases, and images over and over again. 
            There is another word curiosity in The Centaur.  Early on, in Hummel’s auto repair shop, one of the workers is identified as Archy, a curious spelling of the name as opposed to the much more common Archie.  Further in, when student Judy is badgering Caldwell about the questions on an upcoming quiz, in trying to pronounce Archaeopteryx, she says “Archy what?”  The curiosity of seeing the word “Archy” like this, twice, is unmistakeable – does it have any significance at all?  Surely it cannot be coincidental – the question is, how meaningful or important is it?  My suspicion is that, while it may not be particularly germane to the novel as such, it does hold some kind of clue to the novel writing process as a whole. 
            Allow me if I may to wander off into a somewhat related example.  In the (admittedly advance reading copy) edition of Adam Begley’s bio of Updike that I have, Begley quotes a passage from Updike’s writing that includes the word “scabrous”.  Two pages after quoting the passage Begely uses the word “scabrous” in his own prose.  The reader’s attention cannot fail to be drawn to the word. 
            I’m convinced that repeating patterns of words – I mean this in the most literal sense possible, the actual words that appear on the page – carry great significance in the study of literature, though I don’t know what it is exactly.  I may be a little too old and tired for the depth of investigation required to fully flush this out. 



     Peter
     Quinones
     Postmodern
     Deconstruction
     Madhouse
      
                        Reflections on Bellow, Updike and DeLillo
             
                        
             Most writers of fiction, of course, draw heavily on their own life experiences in the composition of novels and stories but John Updike – and this can be both fortunate and unfortunate for a reader, depending on one’s taste– is the sort of author whose work is often intensely, even obsessively,  autobiographical.  His early fiction – numerous short stories and five or six of his early novels – virtually require the serious reader to slough through a lot of material about Updike’s actual life in order to be fully appreciated.  Notice – I don’t say his work can’t be understood or appreciated at least to some degree or level without this research lingering in the background.  That would be ridiculous.  However, when this research is married to careful readings of the fiction, the fiction becomes infinitely richer and, in some cases, great.  Updike’s greatest strength as an author, as innumerable critics have pointed out, is the beauty of his descriptive prose.  (He has limited facility with dialogue – his characters talk like John Updike characters no matter what mise-en-scene he has them operating in.) 
I would go a little further.  I would venture that, at his very best, Updike has the same ability as Picasso – you can literally learn a different way of seeing from this man.  I’ll be selecting a few examples of his writing in order to defend this statement, but first let me just say that this is not intended to be an exhaustive study.  I have neither the desire nor the ability to read through Updike’s twenty something novels and three thousand pages of stories with a fine tooth comb.  I may comment here and there on a few of his later works but, for the most part, I ‘m trying to restrict myself to the following books: The Early Stories, 1953-1975; Rabbit, Run; The Centaur; Of the Farm; Couples; and Marry Me, with special stress and emphasis on Updike’s hymn to his father, The Centaur.  I use that as my cornerstone because it is in it that some of the trademarks of Updike’s fiction really start to become apparent – the obsessive, even pathological, foot fetish and the tension between hard science and more humanistic, spiritual explanations of the universe, to cite just two examples  among possible others. Some of the work Updike did after this is also very strong, for example the remaining Rabbit novels and Roger’s Version, but some of it is almost unimaginably weak, lacking all sense of proportion and apparently done solely for the purpose of keeping the pen moving.  (I believe Keith Richards was once asked why he was still touring with the Rolling Stones after fifty years and answered, “I’ve never had any other job.”)