The best sentence in this collection, as any professional writer will recognise and cheer for its honesty, is the very first: ‘Bills come due; dues must be paid.’ Even John Updike, after seventy-five years, twenty-two novels, dozens of short stories, many poems, and hundreds and hundreds of reviews, needs money. ‘After eight years,’ he adds, ‘I was due for another [sixth] collection of non-fictional prose’ – and there will be a cheque for it. That's why Updike's accountant calls what he writes ‘literary products’. Just as there are master plumbers, electricians and welders, Updike is a master writer. Read him here for his many successes and slide over the few pieces written merely for money; they're pretty obvious.
If the cliché ‘well-stocked mind’ retains any meaning, Updike has one. Assembled here, over 700 pages, are his (recent) pieces on the Bible, the Mabinogian, Shakespeare (Updike had dared to write a novel, Gertrude and Claudius, about Hamlet's mother and her second husband), Henry James, Hemingway, Albrecht Dürer (Updike knows