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Much Ado about Nothing: Boredom, Banality, and Bathos in Late Henry Green and Early John Updike

David Brauner
The Yearbook of English Studies
Vol. 42, Literature of the 1950s and 1960s (2012), pp. 186-203
DOI: 10.5699/yearenglstud.42.2012.0186
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5699/yearenglstud.42.2012.0186
Page Count: 18
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Much Ado about Nothing: Boredom, Banality, and Bathos in Late Henry Green and Early John Updike
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Abstract

Abstract On the face of it, Henry Green and John Updike have little in common. Yet Updike claimed that ‘Henry Green taught me how to write’, providing a ‘model […] of tender exploration […] of the apprehended real’. Focusing on some of Updike's short stories of the 1950s and his first novel, The Poorhouse Fair, and on Green's last two novels, Nothing and Doting, this essay argues that Updike's early fiction shares with Green's late work a profound investment in boredom, banality, and bathos, both as quintessential aspects of human experience and as part of an aesthetic that, paradoxically, places greatest value on that which ostensibly signifies the negation of all value: nothing.

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