Rabbit, Review

Dan Duray is unimpressed with John Updike’s recent collection of art criticism, Always Looking:

Most art writing tends to be decisive, nuanced and centered around a few key ideas that build to some kind of conclusion, like any book or movie review. Updike positions himself as more of an explorer, in a meandering, Lewis and Clark vein, cataloging each and every thing he saw as he walked through a room, squeezing in biographical details and descriptive flourishes where he can. He’s a wordy tour guide, riffing on each and every painting, so in the room that even the "zombified wearers of pedagogical headsets" do not escape his adjectival assault. It’s informative, if that’s the word for it, but it proceeds without too many well-argued opinions about the art, and this doesn’t jibe at all with Updike’s clear knowledge of art history, or the buoyancy of his fiction. …

The man who so memorably turned breasts into ice cream scoops in "A&P" seems like he’s trying too hard when he describes not reality but the world as already interpreted by another artist. This is a shame, because if he’d chosen to focus his attention on a few works rather than describe everything in an exhibition, he might have been able to build to some kind of a point. Finishing one of these essays gives you little to agree or disagree with. There’s just a lingering sensation of having sort of seen the show, albeit through a haze of adverbs.