Thursday, January 29, 2009
TWO NEW ENGLAND GREATS-- NORMAN ROCKWELL AND JOHN UPDIKE
Growing up my favorite magazine, other than sports was The Saturday Evening Post, for one reason. The amazing paintings and drawing of a true New England original--- Norman Rockell (1911-78). For decades Rockwell drew the covers for this magazine, and often they were bought just for the covers. Above you will see five of his famous religious paintings. I especially like the Easter Morning one. There is now a museum for Rockwell's work in Rutland (he used to live in Arlington, as well as several places in Massachusetts (Stockbridge), though he was born in NYC. Rockwell had a wry wit which comes through in so many of his paintings, and his new realism inspired many other artists, perhaps most obviously Andrew Wyeth.
I must also at this point report the very sad news of the passing of John Updike (1932-Jan. 27 2009) of Ipswich, Mass. this week. He was a remarkable writer early on for the New Yorker and then later in his many novels and short stories, mostly about New England. He was also a practicing Christian, a theme in various of his novels almost as frequently as the theme of sex. He won the Pulitzer twice for two of his famous Rabbit novels (Rabbit is Rich and Rabbit at Rest I believe). I've read most of them and they very accurately chronicle certain aspects of life in the 60s-80s. Readers of this blog may well remember the review of his exciting last novel--- The Terrorist. I learned a lot about writing from reading Updike. As a small tribute below I offer his famous poem on resurrection.
SEVEN STANZAS AT EASTER
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.