John Updike was, like Martin Amis, one of those writers whose criticism gave me vastly more pleasure than his fiction. As with Amis, I could pull just about any sentence from any page of any novel and marvel at its intricacies. And, as with Amis, after a couple of novels I had zero desire to bother with another.
To continue with the Amis strain, it has always read to me as if the younger Martin wanted desperately to be adopted by Updike. When Updike committed his critical attention to the lad, and concluded with a sniff of disdain, Amis had a go at returning the favor. Not surprisingly, I think both authors were right in their final evaluation of the other.
To my mind they both did a better job at training their attention on the things that matter -- what makes for compelling fiction -- when they read someone else. Chalk it down to a deficient temperament and call me a literary heretic, but here's the truth: George Pelecanos commits himself to "no less than one page per day" (link -- two fewer than Updike) and I have no trouble finishing anything he gets published.
Link-love: Updike's Reviewing Rules; An intimate look at Updike's marginalia; my favorite Martin Amis book; and finally one such from John Updike. UPDATE: Slate has one of the better round-ups of notables weighing in on Updike. It includes responses from Tom Perrotta and Donald Fagen.