‘Wife Wooing’ by John Updike

Wife Wooing by John Updike, 1960

The magic trick:

Perhaps accidentally revealing ideas about women and relationships

So, if you’ve much Updike, you’ve probably noticed that his appreciation of women typically begins with some form of objectification. Seemingly aware of this in himself, the author turns that male gaze on his wife in “Wife Wooing,” lustily noticing and describing her body as they sit in their home on a cold night.

I’m not sure this technique says the things about marriage, men, or the narrator’s character that Updike may think he’s conveying. But as such, it’s a particularly interesting story.

And that’s quite a trick on Updike’s part.

The selection:

Who would have thought, wide wife, back there in the white tremble of the ceremony (in the corner of my eye I held, despite the distracting hail of ominous vows, the vibration of the cluster of stephanotis clutched against your waist), that seven years would bring us no distance, through all those warm beds, to the same trembling point, of beginning? The cells change every seven years, and down in the atom, apparently, there is a strange discontinuity; as if God wills the universe anew every instant. (Ah God, dear God, tall friend of my childhood, I will never forget you, though they say dreadful things. They say rose windows in cathedrals are vaginal symbols.)

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