‘Love Song, For A Moog Synthesizer’ by John Updike

Updike, John 1976c

Love Song, For A Moog Synthesizer by John Updike, 1976

The magic trick:

Writing very naturally so that the story almost feels like a diary entry

My dad taught me that writing is thinking. For John Updike, writing seems to be breathing.

It all just flows so naturally on the page. What does a sentence like that mean? Ah, I don’t know. It’s clichéd garbage. But I guess I just mean that as a reader you never find yourself stumbling through a sentence or a phrase needing to reread it to clarify the surface meaning. The prose is crisp without being sparse; rich without being convoluted. That’s the technical marvel. The other layer, and this is maybe the more important aspect: you never find yourself failing to completely understand the feelings behind the prose. Every sentence is a direct connection. I may be put off by the moral compass or bored by the subject matter, but there’s very few writers who instantly and thoroughly connect their reader to their feelings.

“Love Song, For A Moog Synthesizer” is a prime example of all of these things. There isn’t much plot. The characters are fairly loathsome. The sex talk feels a little forced. And you know what? Doesn’t matter. The story just flows out. You wonder if Updike even did a second edit. It is all so natural – half-diary entry, half-poem. And that’s quite a trick on Updike’s part.

The selection:

Sometimes her storms of anger and her repetitions threatened to drive him away, as the blows in his ribs had offered to do. (Was that why he held her hands, sleeping – a protective clinch?) And he thought of organizing a retreat from sexuality, a concession of indefensible territory: Kutuzov after Borodino, Thieu before Danang. A magnificent simplification.

But then, a hideous emptiness. “O Pumpkin,” he would moan in the dark, “never leave me. Never: promise.” And the child within him would cringe with a terror for which, when daylight dawned bleak on the scattered realities of their situation, he would silently blame her, and hope to make her pay.

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