Tag Archives: George Orwell Why I Write

“Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu” is regarded as a classic. I would say, “Great effort.”

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‘Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu’

 

“All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one’s own personality. Good prose is like a window pane.” [italics added]

— George Orwell, “Why I Write”

 

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John Updike’s 1960 New Yorker article about Ted Williams’s last game for the Boston Red Sox: “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu” (The New Yorker, October 22 1960) is frequently quoted and seems to have a status akin to “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” (See downloadable Word document of the full Updike text, above.)

 

What is wrong — in my “contrarian” opinion — with Updike’s piece?

It is too long (it needed pruning).

It is too fine (typical of New Yorker pieces); too “literary and (at times) too flowery.

It is the work of a brilliant, undeniably talented writer whose dazzling performance — like that of some virtuosos — comes between you and the subject matter, i.e., the focus of the piece: the great baseball player Ted Williams, his last game.

One tires of Updike’s verbal pyrotechnics, his asides (authorial interventions, commentary).

Is this reportage or an essay? Updike tried to do both. I think it was a mistake.

“Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu” is regarded as a classic. I would say, “Great effort.”

 

— Posted by Roger W. Smith

    January 2021

 

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See also my post:

“Saul Bellow on writing”

 

https://rogers-rhetoric.com/2018/12/26/saul-bellow-on-writing/