The past two years have seen a huge jump in online classes, with an equally large number of asynchronous courses and assignments. You can watch/listen to Dr. John Pistelli‘s interesting lecture on Updike and “Separating” on YouTube. It’s part of his English 1201W: Contemporary American Literature course that was offered spring 2021. “Separating” is the Updike story included in the main textbook for the course, The Norton Anthology of American Literature, Volume E: Literature Since 1945, Ninth Edition. Pistelli says that he doesn’t “care much about” the story—”I don’t think it’s Updike’s best work.”
Pistelli calls Updike a polarizing writer—you either love him or you don’t. “I actually like Updike, so I understand the critiques of him.” Pistelli considers Updike a “lyrical realist” and asserts that there’s “no critique in Updike”—that everything is described more or less without judgment being passed. He also sees in Updike a tendency towards sentimentality and what he terms “a laziness of intellect” that helps to explain the response of critics who see Updike as a stylist without much to say.
Pistelli is a lecturer at the University of Minnesota who specializes in Modern British and American fiction, history/theory of the novel, Modernism, and fiction writing.