things of little relevance

still hung updike
February 2, 2009, 12:33 am
Filed under: asia, bookish, Uncategorized | Tags: ,

In 1999 I was ten-years-old, which explains how I missed John Updike naming Gish Jen as his literary successor, which also explains why Lisa Ling was the only female Chinese-American role model I had growing up. In an article in The New Republic, Jen regrets never having asked him, “Why me?”

For me, Updike’s decision foreshadowed America’s burgeoning multiculturalism. If Updike’s writing—particularly the Rabbit series—captured the average American’s existence from the 1960s on, then Jen’s novels and short stories about immigrants are representative of America’s ever-increasing ethnic pluralism. Yes, white men are still extremely visible in the mainstream, but the Rabbit Angstrom’s are on the downswing. Picking Gish Jen demonstrates that Updike’s careful attention to America transcended his observations of middle America as he recognized that (so-called) “ethnic literature” (household names like Jhumpa Lahiri, Maxine Hong Kingston, etc.) constituted a redefinition of the “American” novel.

This is why I am so torn between Renaissance and Asian-American literature.

This is also why I am still devouring every posthumous John Updike article.


3 Comments so far
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I also didn’t hear about John Updike naming Gish Jen his literary successor (though not strange, because I didn’t read John Updike) but I read Gish Jen after reading about her in Seventeen magazine – are you judging me yet?

Comment by Hae-Joon

I desperately wanted to read Seventeen when I was twelve or so, but my mom wouldn’t let me because she thought it was too materialistic and sexual…

Comment by Lucy

I met Gish Jen last year at the Pen awards — she sat at my table. She’s AMAZING. She’s good friends with Professor Damrosch. Her grasp of voice is just incredible.

Comment by Veronica

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