Tag Archives: john updike

The Violet Hour: Great Writers at the End by Katie Roiphe

The Violet HourTitle: The Violet Hour: Great Writes at the End
Author: Katie Roiphe
Publisher: The Dial Press
ISBN: 978-0385343596
Genre: Nonfiction, Death and Dying
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 stars

There’s something about death, isn’t it? Something so fearful and yet sometimes enigmatic for some. Sometimes also makes you think about it all and then only leads to everything becoming nothing in an instant. One day it is all there and the other it isn’t.

Katie Roiphe takes this a step further in her book “The Violet Hour” and speaks of death in the context of great writers (who are but obviously dead) at the end of their lives. She just doesn’t write of death as the end, but the entire journey of dying, so to say. For instance, how Susan Sontag thought she could beat death at its own game and did several times, till she had to go. Or for that matter, Updike who after receiving the worst possible diagnosis wrote a poem at seventy-six. And then the excesses of Dylan Thomas and his suicide attempts that finally led to his death.

A good work of nonfiction, to my mind, is the one that doesn’t stray away from facts and more than anything else does not try to romanticize facts. Roiphe’s strength lies not only in these two facets of writing, but also the way she presents her extensive research, which involved family and friends of writers and what is already known to the general public. Roiphe doesn’t make the book sentimental, and yet it tugs at the heart because death is sadly a universal experience. We have all seen it up, close and personal and can relate if not even empathize with most part of the book or all of it, as it were in my case.

The book does not tell you how to grieve. What it does though is in a way deconstruct death through experiences of great writers and what it did to them and their family and friends. And in that process, we just get to know these writers better. Death, for Freud, was just a subject to be studied till he realized that he couldn’t observe his own death after all and never hestitated to smoke himself to death and refused to take pain killers.

At some point, as a reader one could feel guilty of prying into another’s death – the last days and yet there is something about the book that makes you want to know more about these six writers. Kudos to Katie for all the research and the way she articulates thoughts, emotions, what the writers did in the last days, what they chose to rather and above all what does death mean to each of them and perhaps even to yes on a universal level.

387 Short Stories: Day 28: Story 28: The Walk with Elizanne by John Updike

My Father's Tears and Other Stories by John Updike Title: The Walk with Elizanne
Author: John Updike
Taken from the Collection: My Father’s Tears and Other Stories

Since my Internet connection was acting weird last night, I could not post this, however this was yesterday’s story. “The Walk with Elizanne” by John Updike is, according to me, his most simple story and at the same time, the most brilliant of his short stories. I could be biased, but I love this story. This was probably the third time I was reading it and yet, fell in love with it, the same way as I had read it the first time.

The story follows Elizanne and David, as they move through the town they grew up in and relive their first kiss. It is a reunion of sorts and Updike manages to encompass a world in this. He speaks of hard truths of life and how people change and yet he manages to keep their innocence intact, as they go along, wondering the people they were and the people they have become – and how was their first kiss and now in all probability their last.

“The Walk with Elizanne” is a beautiful story, which I would urge everyone to read.