Monday 30 March 2009

John Updike’s The Witches of Eastwick – a fast-track process

It is with great sadness that I announce to the world I have given up reading Updike’s The Witches of Eastwick on page 10. I have just seen AA’s prophetic comment on my previous blog entry, which says: “Better go straight to The Plague – or any other book by Camus, for that matter – skipping The Witches.” Here’s my verdict on the book:

Did I like the book?
It ain’t my cup of tea. Not badly written, but baroque and overwritten to the point of paroxism. Too much fluff and – I can’t figure out what the heck is happening. I read the first ten pages three times, during three separate sessions. I give up.

What did I like most?
Er, the editing and the production, for once. . .

What didn’t work for me?
Just as for Sinclair Lewis, the prose seems to grow in a sort of tumorous way rather than flow naturally.

Would I publish it?
No. I loved the man when he was alive, and now I feel slightly guilty because I don’t like his work now that he’s gone. I am sorry, but even if many consider him one of the finest writers in the great American tradition, this book – for me – reads like the ichthyological parts of Moby Dick.

What if it came as an unsolicited manuscript?
I would pass.

Did it sustain my interest throughout?
Giving up on page 10 is not a good sign.

The best bit in the book?
I read too little to find one.

The best scene in the book?

Comments on the package, editing, typesetting?
After the nasty comments I have made in the past about other Penguin Classics titles, I must admit that this book, both for editorial care and quality of typography, package etc. is refreshingly good. I think the new Penguin Classics are miles better than the old ones in terms of quality. It’s a good sign.

My final verdict?
I’ll probably pick up another Updike book some time – possibly one from the celebrated Rabbit trilogy. But I am in no particular rush.

The next book I’m going to try will either be a Ionesco play or a Céline novel. More soon.



  1. Alas, my prophecy came too late. What about that Russian book you were planning to read next?

  2. Too many books to read . . .

    But Ionesco should be good. Then I'll try Nabokov.



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