"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Monday, March 26, 2007

Book Review - Villages by John Updike

Since I haven't read any of John Updike's novels, I felt it was about time. The brief and humorous description of Cabot City and Haskell's Crossing made it momentarily interesting. However, my dislike of the main character, Owen, made it painful.

The sexual history of a fearless adulterer is at times a work of pornography, with repeated scenes of hardcore sex. One would think that the sexual escapades of a successful businessman might be a quick read, but it was just the opposite. Owen lacked passion in his extracurricular activities, or for that matter anything in his life.

And the last chapter, when Owen at 70 turns away from his wife's caresses and takes up oil painting, is full of reflection on his relations with women throughout his entire life -- from his doting mother in Pennsylvania to his girl friend in high school, to his first wife, Phyllis, who gave him four children before killing herself in an automobile accident when he asked for divorce, to his succession of creative lovers who taught him the joys of sex, to his second wife, Julia, first married to a minister, who loves Owen for 25 years and gives him a feeling of everlasting contentment.

Also in this book, an examination of the early years of the computer industry, including the creation of the mouse, as Owen starts a software business with his friend Ed that will make him rich.

But while I appreciate Updike's agility with language, I just cannot get past that this story is 90% sexual exploits. Who cares? It's just not interesting to me to read that a man, a supposedly well-educated man, would engage in one affair after another, with one bad consequence following the last, never learning or growing. Owen was totally unsympathetic to me.

I enjoy a good read, and this wasn't one.

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