As seis regras de John Updike

Num texto de 1977, John Updike resumiu um conjunto de seis regras a seguir pelos críticos literários, no exercício do seu trabalho. Ei-las:

«1. Try to understand what the author wished to do, and do not blame him for not achieving what he did not attempt.
2. Give him enough direct quotation–at least one extended passage–of the book’s prose so the review’s reader can form his own impression, can get his own taste.
3. Confirm your description of the book with quotation from the book, if only phrase-long, rather than proceeding by fuzzy precis.
4. Go easy on plot summary, and do not give away the ending. (How astounded and indignant was I, when innocent, to find reviewers blabbing, and with the sublime inaccuracy of drunken lords reporting on a peasants’ revolt, all the turns of my suspenseful and surpriseful narrative! Most ironically, the only readers who approach a book as the author intends, unpolluted by pre-knowledge of the plot, are the detested reviewers themselves. And then, years later, the blessed fool who picks the volume at random from a library shelf.)
5. If the book is judged deficient, cite a successful example along the same lines, from the author’s ouevre or elsewhere. Try to understand the failure. Sure it’s his and not yours?
To these concrete five might be added a vaguer sixth, having to do with maintaining a chemical purity in the reaction between product and appraiser. Do not accept for review a book you are predisposed to dislike, or committed by friendship to like. Do not imagine yourself a caretaker of any tradition, an enforcer of any party standards, a warrior in an idealogical battle, a corrections officer of any kind. Never, never (John Aldridge, Norman Podhoretz) try to put the author ‘in his place,’ making him a pawn in a contest with other reviewers. Review the book, not the reputation. Submit to whatever spell, weak or strong, is being cast. Better to praise and share than blame and ban. The communion between reviewer and his public is based upon the presumption of certain possible joys in reading, and all our discriminations should curve toward that end.»

Concordo particularmente com esta frase: «Better to praise and share than blame and ban.»

Updike Updated

Claro que entretanto alguém corrigiu o erro (é, sem ironia, a vantagem da Internet: os updates).

[via Pastoral Portuguesa]

Ponto final

Numa das muitas páginas que o site do The New York Times dedica ao desaparecimento de John Updike, encontrei este poema em que o autor da tetralogia Rabbit antecipa as reacções à sua morte:


It came to me the other day:
Were I to die, no one would say,
“Oh, what a shame! So young, so full
Of promise — depths unplumbable!”

Instead, a shrug and tearless eyes
Will greet my overdue demise;
The wide response will be, I know,
“I thought he died a while ago.”

For life’s a shabby subterfuge,
And death is real, and dark, and huge.
The shock of it will register
Nowhere but where it will occur.

O poema foi retirado de um livro a editar em breve. Título: Endpoint and Other Poems.

John Updike (1932-2009)

Morreu um dos grandes da literatura norte-americana contemporânea (um dos grandes a quem o adjectivo grande assentava de facto bem), autor prolífico, vencedor de dois Pulitzer, mas não do Nobel (acontece aos melhores).
«His style was one of compulsive and unstoppable vividness and musicality. Several times a day you turn to him, as you will now to his ghost, and say to yourself ‘How would Updike have done it?”», escreveu Martin Amis, no The Guardian.

Cabelos brancos

Num artigo publicado pelo Seattle Post, John Updike reflecte, com óbvio conhecimento de causa, sobre as dificuldades e alegrias dos escritores mais velhos.
Eis uma das dificuldades:

«With ominous frequency, I can’t think of the right word. I know that there is a word; I can visualize the exact shape it occupies in the jigsaw puzzle of the English language. But the word itself, with its precise edges and unique tint of meaning, hangs on the misty rim of consciousness…»

E a principal alegria:

«An aging writer has the not insignificant satisfaction of a shelf of books behind him that, as they wait for their ideal readers to discover them, will outlast him for a while. The pleasures, for him, of book-making — the first flush of inspiration, the patient months of research and plotting, the laser-printed final draft, the back-and-forthing with Big Apple publishers, the sample pages, the jacket sketches, the proofs, and at last the boxes from the printer’s, with their sweet heft and smell of binding glue — remain, and retain creation’s giddy bliss. Among those diminishing neurons there lurks the irrational hope that the last book might be the best.»

«Tenho a suspeita de que a espécie humana - a única - está prestes a extinguir-se e que a Biblioteca perdurará: iluminada, solitária, infinita, perfeitamente imóvel, armada de volumes preciosos, inútil, incorruptível, secreta» Jorge Luis Borges