Self-ConsciousnessA life view by the living can only be provisional Perspectives are altered by the fact of being drawn description solidifies the past and creates a gravitational body that wasn t there before A background of dark matter all that is not said remains, buzzing.I became determined to hunt down John Updike s Self Consciousness after coming across this article , and was quite relieved that I managed to locate it at a nearby local library glad to have avoided the pains of my 3 month search for William Maxwell s So Long, See you Tomorrow I was to put it simply bummed, therefore, when the first few pages did not immediately suck me in, and resignedly headed back to the library to return it a week after Bored on the bus, I flipped to around page 28 and by the time I got to the bus stop, I couldn t stop reading it classic.The essential self is innocent, and when it tastes its own innocence knows that it lives forever If we keep utterly still, we can suffer no wear and tear, and will never die Self Consciousness is Updike s memoir, throughout which his life is unfolded to us not via chronological accounts but rather six compelling essays In each, he explains different reasons for his self consciousness, without which he a boy who loved the average, the daily, the safely hidden could not have become a prolific, adaptable, ruthless enough writer The first essay, A Soft Spring Night in Shillington, begins with Updike s lost luggage and ends with his self conscious walk around his hometown, Shillington the next, At War with My Skin uncovers Updike s long struggle with psoriasis, a skin disease that counted him out of any jobs that demand being presentable yet helped him develop a thick literary skin and become a writer In the third essay, Getting the Words Out, Updike describes his habit of stuttering and fear of being misunderstood, hence his eagerness of getting the words out The fourth essay, On Not Being a Dove, outlines Updike s self consciousness and frustration regarding being named, in the Times, the lone American writer unequivocally for the US intervention in Vietnam and his adolescent teeth pain The next essay, A Letter to My Grandsons, I skimmed interested in Updike s ideas than his family history , and the final On Being a Self Forever is the most poignantly written, in which Updike writes of his pens es de la mort and what it means to be a self.So voil , through 6 essays Updike has pinpointed the main sources of his self and self consciousness his hometown with the chilly thrilly taste of his self , his skin, his stuttering, his teeth, his self and he has done so in elegant, freely structured prose In fact, one of the best similes I ve ever read is presented in Getting the Words Out, in which Updike describesa microphone cowled in black sponge asuptilted like the screened face of a miniature fencer The picture of him standing on the stage, anxious to stutter, opened up to me.Updike also discusses his self consciousness of being a writer As soon as one is aware of being somebody, to be watched and listened to with extra interest, input ceases, and the performer goes blind and deaf in his overanimation Most of the best fiction is written out of early impressions, taken in before the writer became conscious of himself as a writer The best seeing is done by the hunted and the hunter, the vulnerable and the hungry the successful writer acquires a film over his eyes His eyes get fat Self importance is a thickened, occluding form of self consciousness The binge, the fling, the trip all attempt to shake the film and get back under the dinning room table, with a child s beautifully clear eyes.So we see that Updike has struggled and benefited from self consciousness all his life Psoriasis may have sent him running to the sun during summer and his dread of death left him distressed, but without them, he would have never been impelled to pursue the papery self magnification and immortality of printed reproduction writing Do I really want it, this self, these scattered fingerprints on the air, to persist forever, to outlast the atomic universe Updike asks in the final essay He gives us all something to think about.An illusion of eternal comfort reposes in clubbiness, he explains, the assurance that no earthly adventure, from puberty to death, is unprecedented or incapable of being shared and that one s life is thoroughly witnessed and therefore not wasted.It was potentially terrifying to advance into time every day, a new newspaper on the porch toward death.Those who scoff at the Christian hope of an afterlife have on their side not only a mass of biological evidence knitting the self conscious mind tight to the perishing body but a certain moral superiority as well isn t it terribly, well, selfish, and grotesquely egocentric, to hope for than our animal walk in the sun, from eager blind infancy through the productive and procreative years into a senescence that, by the laws of biological instinct as well as by the premeditated precepts of stoic virtue, will submit to eternal sleep gracefully Where, indeed, in the vast spaces disclosed by modern astronomy, would our disembodied spirit go, and, once there, what would it do We do find it hard to picture any endlessly sustained condition or activity that would not become as much a torture as live entombment If we picture the afterlife at all, it is, heretically, as the escape of something impalpable the essential I from this corruptible flesh, occurring at the moment of death The thought of this long wait within the tomb afflicts us with claustrophobia and the fear of being lost forever where is our self during the long interval The idea that we sleep for centuries and centuries without a flicker of dream, while our bodies rot and turn to dust and the very stone marking our graves crumbles to nothing, is virtually as terrifying as annihilation Every attempt to be specific about the afterlife, to conceive of it in even the most general detail, appalls us.In fact we do not try to picture the afterlife, nor is it our selves in our nervous tics and optical flecks that we wish to perpetuate it is the self as the window on the world that we can t bear to thinkof shutting My mind when I was a boy of ten or eleven sent up its silent scream at the thought of future aeons at the thought of the cosmic party going on without me The yearning for an afterlife is the opposite of selfish it is love and praise of the world that we are privileged, in this complex interval of light, to witness and experience Writing is an addiction, an illusory release, a presumptuous taming of reality, a way of expressing lightly the unbearable That we age and leave behind this litter of dead, unrecoverable selves is both unbearable and the commonest thing in the world it happens to everybody In the morning light one can write breezily, without the slight acceleration of one s pulse, about what one cannot contemplate in the dark without turning in panic to God In the dark one truly feels that immense sliding, that turning of the vast earth into darkness and eternal cold, taking with it all the furniture and scenery, and the bright distractions and warm touches, of our lives Even the barest earthly facts are unbearably heavy, weighted as they are with our personal death Writing, in making the world light in codifying, distorting, prettifying, verbalizing it approaches blasphemy.Not only are selves conditional but they die Each day, we wake slightly altered, and the person we were yesterday is dead So why, one could say, be afraid of death, when death comes all the time Is it not the singularity of life that terrifies us Is not the decisive difference between comedy and tragedy that tragedy denies us another chance Shakespeare over and over demonstrates life s singularity the irrevocability of our decisions, hasty and even mad though they be How solemn and huge and deeply pathetic our life does loom in its once and doneness, how inexorably linear, even though our rotating, revolving planet offers us the cycles of the day and of the year to suggest that existence is intrinsically cyclical, a playful spin, and that there will always be, tomorrow morning or the next, another chance. A striking passage from Updike s memoirs Self Consciousness taken from the essay On Being a Self Forever Celebrity, even the modest sort that comes to writers, is an unhelpful exercise in self consciousness Celebrity is a mask that eats into the face As soon as one is aware of being somebody, to be watched and listened to with extra interest, input ceases, and the performer goes blind and deaf in his overanimation One can either see or be seen Most of the best fiction is written out of early impressions, taken in before the writer became conscious of himself as a writer The best seeing is done by the hunted and the hunter, the vulnerable and the hungry the successful writer acquires a film over his eyes His eyes get fat Self importance is a thickened, occluding form of self consciousness The binge, the fling, the trip all attempt to shake the film and get back under the dinning room table, with a child s beautifully clear eyes.I ve often read material by writers before and after they ve won some major literary award like the Nobel Prize or Pulitzer and there seems to be something authentic in the earlier work The argument isn t necessarily limited to prizes but perhaps even controversy or simply brilliant writing that attracts the kind of attention it deserves.Sometimes I wonder if feeling this way about the texts of an established writer are based on the expectations I have built after the writer s recognition, and therefore expect each new text to surpass the previous one Other times I think it s the writer s responsibility since the writer didn t produce a text with the same or even better literary quality.Take Gabriel Garcia Marquez as an example, his work continues to grow and improve in time despite having received the Nobel Prize at the age of 55 some thirty years ago So how can this be explained Updike enlightens us by stressing that the material the substance that makes up the stories of writers, that stuff needs to come from a time before fame and fortune before literary acclaim Those thoughts, ideas, emotions, and instincts that shape us, as well as the challenges and obstacles that life impedes us with before we finally have a breakthrough, there is where the ink lies mingled with our blood It s in our veins to be tapped out and used on the page.Afterward We re probably too corrupted. Having stuck with JU through his formative years,enduring his self admittedly plebian sufferings over his psoriasis and his dental issues,his painful articulation of his anti pacifist stance,butI almost chucked the whole thing in my frustration with his egocentric rambling in his chapter dedicated to his two African grandchildren This book in no way endeared me to the man, nor his writing.However, I chose this book not out of any affinity with JU, but rather my fasciination with the topic of the title The last chapter was the one I needed to read, and glad I am that I bothered.I am glad that I read this passage when we try in good faith to believe in materialism, in the exclusive reality of the physical,we are asking ourselves to step aside we are disavowing the very realm where we exist and where all things precious are kept the realm of emotion and conscience, of memory and intention and sensation p264That is so well put and so clear to me that I have have to forgive JU his trespasses against my pacifism and my politics and my own sense of style. Without trying, I was always reading something by John Updike It was hard not to, especially if you read The New Yorker, where his fiction, essays, and reviews appeared for fifty years I love his memoir, Self Consciousness, much of which explores what made Updike awkward and shy his introverted boyhood, his stutter and his many adult afflictions, especially psoriasis and bad teeth It s a fascinating inquiry into the nature of subjectivity and memory.Early in Self Consciousness Updike unfolds a scene where, as a student working on an art project after hours in his high school, he realizes that his teacher and the stern principal appear to share a secret romantic life To this quiet but indelible memory, he adds, attaches a sensation that one of these two teachers came over and ruffled my hair, as if we had become a tiny family but it may be simply that one of them stood close, to see how far along I was, because when I was finished we could all go to our separate homes Thus Updike gives readers the dual effect of memoir and fiction He pulls this skillful having it both ways trick a few times, as when he portrays a strange feed store proprietor who always wore dark clothes and one day would be found murdered Then Updike pauses Did he really always wear dark clothes, or has my memory, knowing of his grisly end, dressed him appropriately Spying from our front windows, I would watch him descend his long cement steps with an odd sideways bias, favoring one leg, looking like a dark monkey on a string The brilliance of this is in its vivid imagery, resonant with emotion, and in Updike s insight that his memory may be lying and then in playing out the scene with that suspect material to bring the vision in his mind to life Most writers wouldn t have noticed or questioned such a detail in the first place but Updike understood the interaction among sensibility, history, and imagination With his confessions, by his calling attention to what might be his mind s creative lies, he won my complete faith, that famous conjurer, that his memoir was truthful His scruples were neatly practical, moral, and aesthetic And his little asides amount to sophisticated criticisms of the unquestioned and the allegedly factual For what is the truth of most memory beyond one mind s knowing Probably no one living but Updike, at the time, remembered that twisted little man or perceived him that way in the first place.Of course the passage also underscores Updike s theme of self consciousness in showing both his secretive boyhood attentions to life and his adult preoccupation with literary creation In experiencing the layered subjectivity of this gifted writer, readers find in Self Consciousness powerful affirmation of their own private selves. I skipped his letter to his mixed raced grandsons as they seemed a little bit self congratulatory white guy for my taste Look at me My DNA is in a brown person How bohemian of me etc etc , so my thoughts are about the remainder of his essays.I found Updike most compelling when his pieces were grounded in a physical place, and or at least involve scenes into which I could plant my mental feet This offers a hint to how I can improve my own writing, i.e., plagiarize off Updike write about my childhood in Shillington By doing so, he could go off for fifty pages about all manner of WTF without losing me as a reader, because I was right there with him as he perigrinated and peripatetic and perambulated and perimetered and then all of a sudden we are back in downtown Shillington waiting on a misty night for his luggage Who knows if that night even happened it was a most excellent frame for the telling of that essay.It s a bit downhill from there, particularly since he reveals himself as a pretty unsympathetic dude He cheats on his wife, leaves his family, and is also able to make a really good living off being a writer loathsome There were some interesting bits about psoriasis an acute case of which my older sister has and some moderately insightful moments regarding the delta between how one sees oneself vs how one is perceived by others.Some good lines IMHO The burden of activity, of participation, must plainly be shouldered, and has its pleasures But they are cruel pleasures In Ipswich my impersonation of a normal person became as good as I could make it My war with my skin had to do with self love, with finding myself acceptable, whether others did or not Between the thought and the word falls a shadow, a cleavage stuttering, like suicide and insomnia and stoicism, demonstrates the duality of our existence, the ability of the body and soul to say no to one another But basically I was a cultural bumpkin in love not with writing but with print, the straight lines and serifs of it, the industrial polish and transcendence of it My Harvard classmates , secure in the upper middle class, were Democrats out of human sympathy and humanitarian largesse, because this was the party that helped the poor Our family had simply been poor, and voted Democrat out of crude self interest Made the time in which he as a child come alive to me Also made me mourn the birth of private equity funded malls which, along with other forces, murdered walkable small towns and the concomitant social capital that once came with. For my money, if the Dallas Cowboys are America s team John Updike was America s writer He writes with such elegance it s a pleasure to read an Updike sentence Near the end of Self Consciousness Memoirs he describes watching Olympic ice dancing on television and being struck by the poetry of the moves as the dancers glide and shift through their routines The same could be said of Updike s writing, the fluid movement from thought to thought.Self Consciousness is a memoir written in his mid fifties, twenty years before his death In 6 essays he describes the life he led, meandering here and there, flowing back and forth in time and focus Like memory He comes across as fairly honest, and he s not easy on himself, being frank about the ways he thinks he s failed as father and husband The essays cover the town of Shillington, Pennsylvania as he remembers it when he was growing up there, his health issues, primarily asthma and psoriasis, his beginning to write and his struggles with stuttering, his unpopular support of the government during the Vietnam War and his inability to keep his stance from becoming public knowledge, an Updike family history, and an essay on how all his past selves contribute to his present self and how his memories of those selves create a consciousness.To me it seems wise because Updike has the ability to so elegantly and with such clever insight relate what we all experience sexuality, work, religion, family, our relation to the current events of our day It s labeled memoir it s also philosophy Updike s memoir remembers his experiences as a postwar American who s had moderate his thought success at what he chose to do with his life More than about John Updike, it s about the America he saw in his lifetime In some of the generalities he makes about himself one can see generalities about America The man who comes through in these pages is easy for me to like Some of his attitudes and opinions mirror my own, including his controversial acceptance of our presence in Vietnam His ability to go along with things and to acclimate himself to any environment in which he finds himself holds great appeal to me In only one area did I not relate to Updike s expression of his conscious self In the section entitled A Letter to My Grandsons, I thought it a little too detailed in Updike family history to be of interest to me, a Murphy.I thought it a clever structure, to focus on six biographical areas and use them to propel the narrative of one s life Having been away from Updike for a while I m always surprised at how impressive, how opulent his prose is He wrote with great style yet it reads with an ease that encourages you to conclude it came to him easily This is terrific, grand memoir which looks at a self in the context of the human But it s only one story He reminds us that billions of such self consciousnesses make up history, each the center of the universe You ll agree, though, that only someone like Updike could articulate with such refinement his place in the world. At the public library a few days ago, having time on my hands while waiting for my grandson to finish looking at the HO model railroad display featured this week, I browsed the nonfiction section of John Updike s work, in part an homage on the occasion of his recent death, in part out of my interest in reading something other than his novels of which I have read several, the beauty of his language always having failed to compensate for what I felt was the banality of his subjects, leaving me depressed and disappointed at the end of each At random I picked up his book of memoirs, Self Consciousness, and I finished it this evening, having found it unexpectedly moving and delightful, the usual linguistic virtuosity being as present as anticipated, his self revelations and introspective sensitivity providing me with fresh insights into who he was, what influences created the craftsman he turned out to be, and what goals and intentions motivated him in his writings Every few pages I found myself jotting down quotations How circumstantial reality is Truth is anecdote, narrative, the snug opaque quotidian Most of all, I gained a greater appreciate for his intent, his desire to simply describe what he was seeing, as carefully and as accurately as possible Now I am eager to read his essays, his literary criticism, some of his poetry, his short stories and I may even give his novels another whirl. For the Updike reader, this is an indispensable volume He s not afraid to show some of his warts along the way of writing this memoir I think it s clear that his relationship with his mother was very important as she too was a writer Along the way, he admits to reading comic books and science fiction as a young boy He often had choking fits at dinner nervous swallowing habit which may also have been brought on by being too self conscious In total, it feels like a pretty honest account and it s a fascinating read. Updike is a terrific writer He exhibits this self consciously in these reflections on his life, times and family It s humbling to read someone whose narratives seem to flow with such ease, and with such felicity He led a special life, and his ability to describe it so fluently gives away why I especially appreciated the chapter regarding life during the sixties, On Not Being a Dove. Self ConsciousnessOne Of Our Finest Novelists Now Gives Us His Most Dazzling Creation His Own Life In Six Eloquent And Compelling Chapters, The Author Of The Witches Of Eastwick And The Wonderful Rabbit Trilogy Gives Us An Incitingly Honest Look At The Makings Of An American Writer And Of An American ManHere Is Updike On His Childhood, On Ailments Both Horrible Psoriasis And Hilarious His Experiences At The Hands Of A Dentist , On His Stuttering, On His Feelings During The Vietnam War, On His Genealogy And On That Most Elusive Of Subjects, His Innermost Self What Emerges Is A Fascinating, Fully Formed Portrait Candid, Often Very, Funny, And Always IlluminatingJohn Updike

John Hoyer Updike was an American writer Updike s most famous work is his Rabbit series Rabbit, Run Rabbit Redux Rabbit Is Rich Rabbit At Rest and Rabbit Remembered Rabbit is Rich and Rabbit at Rest both won Pulitzer Prizes for Updike Describing his subject as the American small town, Protestant middle class, Updike is well known for his careful craftsmanship and prolific writing, havin

[PDF / Epub] ☆ Self-Consciousness By John Updike –
  • Paperback
  • 271 pages
  • Self-Consciousness
  • John Updike
  • English
  • 02 January 2019
  • 9780449218211

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