updike, levine, and …

John Updike, “America’s last true man of letters” was an interesting character. Not many know that his early desire was to be a cartoonist, and ironically, that the ‘cartoon connection’ was what engaged him in a literary relationship with The New Yorker, which itself greatly contributed to his rise in fame and influence. It must have been serendipitous then to have the artist and caricaturist David Levine make several drawings of him. Here is the most famous (see fair use copyright restrictions on this artwork).


Levine’s work has always interested me (see here), and at one stage I experimented with my own Levinesque impressions of Eugene Peterson and JI Packer.

P&P Spread.jpg

Thus far I have been unable to find an Updike work to gauge his accomplishments in visual art.  (He did spend several years at Oxford’s Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art.) However, here is a magnificent poem:


Make no mistake: if He rose at all

it was as His body;

if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules

reknit, the amino acids rekindle,

the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,

each soft Spring recurrent;

it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled

eyes of the eleven apostles;

it was as His flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,

the same valved heart

that–pierced–died, withered, paused, and then

regathered out of enduring Might

new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,

analogy, sidestepping transcendence;

making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the

faded credulity of earlier ages:

let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,

not a stone in a story,

but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow

grinding of time will eclipse for each of us

the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,

make it a real angel,

weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,

opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen

spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,

for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,

lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are

embarrassed by the miracle,

and crushed by remonstrance.

(John Updike)

One Response to “updike, levine, and …”

  1. Nice drawings. I think you should propose to Regent levinesque drawings of all their profs and use them on the web site instead of the photos.