Updike had this to say about Internet culture, which he admits to not understanding:
"You type in your blog, and some other people read it, and so you create a print society apart from real society and you're getting the gratification of expressing yourself . . . It's a way to develop a public persona, but it's very undiscriminating, and very 'me-minded.' We're all me-minded. We all have egos."
But writers in the past, such as Upton Sinclair, went beyond ego to serve a greater good, he says. "They were trying to improve the world . . . I get a feeling this electronic stuff is all kind of a game, another form of a video game."
I think similar things could have been said about 18th century pamphlet and broadside writers (except for the bit about video games; which, incidentally, I don't play). They created a print society apart from that of their compatriots, the vast majority of whom were illiterate. Yes, there's a lot of "me" in this blog and many others, but I hope that in some way we're all serving the greater good. I sure would like to improve the world, too, though I think it's the height of arrogance to even imply that my writing will do the trick.
How interesting that Updike decries the current generation of writers for not being like Upton Sinclair, when he sure as hell isn't either. Sinclair was an ardent Socialist whose books reflected his politics, and who thrice ran for office in spectacularly unsuccessful fashion.
Thorn writes that Updike's new novel, Terrorist:
Very affecting, but who has a kid's birthday party from 8:30-10:30 on a Tuesday morning in September? Something's out of kilter here.
... was born the day he attended a child's birthday party in an apartment in Brooklyn Heights. From the window, featuring an expansive view of downtown Manhattan, he saw smoke billowing from the Twin Towers. ..
"Suddenly, the thing went down and we heard it. There was a kind of tinkling, a delicate sound, almost like wind chimes. I suppose it was all the glass shattering. Then, whooomp and dust covering the towers, and the whole island of Manhattan was wailing with sirens."
UPDATE 6/19: Per Galleycat, which did the Proper Journalistic Thing and checked with Knopf:
Let this be a lesson on the importance of clear writing and good editing.
Updike did in fact go to Brooklyn for a child's birthday party, and though it wasn't on the morning of 9/11, he was still in the city, and that's when he saw what he saw...