Watching them fall like a heavy rain of letters and semicolons.
I woke with that thought recently. It ended up being the opening of the first and only poem I’ve written this year.
Like much of my creative fiction and poetry, the idea comes to live in my head and roosts: I sit on a train and look at all of the passengers and imagine their lives; I imagine what it must be like for a child inside the womb; I watch a spider ride a wave down the drain of the shower and wish it hadn’t gone so soon. These are the seeds to poems, stories and novels.
This thought—about the great writers dying off—came recently when I realized it’s already been two years since John Updike’s death.
Updike, like Rabbit, is at rest.
Sure, there are still hundreds, probably thousands, of Great American Writers. But somehow Updike is lodged in my mind as one of the giants, a powerhouse in league with Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck and William Faulkner; Henry James and Mark Twain. A writer of serious literature. There are masterful authors at work now, certainly. But when it comes to the representatives of literature, the old men in tweed jackets, sleeves rolled up and a single slice of paper rolled in the typewriter … have they all died off?
If not, will they soon? Who are the contenders in the collective conscience of America’s universal library? Philip Roth? John Irving? Jonathan Franzen? Michael Cunningham? Tom Wolfe? Alice McDermott?
(We’ve recently lost contenders David Foster Wallace, Norman Mailer and Kurt Vonnegut.)
Now, with Updike down, who will carry on the tradition? Who will play the music of heavy keys and bleeding fingers, clanking out a soundtrack of antiquated print?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Eric D. Goodman is an American writer of literary fiction, commercial fiction, childrens’ literature, and non-fiction. He writes a weekly “Lit Bit” column for Gather and a “Literary Life” column for Coloquio. His debut novel-in-stories, TRACKS will be released June 30, 2011.