Seek My Face: A Novel
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John Updike’s twentieth novel, like his first, The Poorhouse Fair, takes place in one day, a day that contains much conversation and some rain. The seventy-nine-year-old painter Hope Chafetz, who in the course of her eventful life has been Hope Ouderkirk, Hope McCoy, and Hope Holloway, answers questions put to her by a New York interviewer named Kathryn, and recapitulates, through stories from her career and many marriages, the triumphant, poignant saga of postwar American art. In the evolving relation between the two women, interviewer and subject move in and out of the roles of daughter and mother, therapist and patient, predator and prey, supplicant and idol. The scene is central Vermont; the time, the early spring of 2001.
a time when lawyers also served as financial advisers, between old Philadelphia money and the hazards of an ever-new world that played host to a market crash followed by a radical Democratic President who laughed at privilege, being himself privileged—none of this seemed, by the inner light that burned dimly within him, enough. He did not much protest when his daughter rebelled and went wild in New York. She thinks Kathryn has seen enough of the studio. It was important to Hope that her studio
scribbled on odd bits of paper in his pockets, called Zack our Ingres. Our Ingres. It made me think, it made me cry in fact, years after he was dead, when the turmoil Zack always created around himself had died down. There was this peace, this balance and calm, in his paintings, and I can only think that that was his mood, out there in the cold in the barn, away from me, away from the clever critics, away from the bitchy rich women and cagey foreigners who ran the galleries, away even from his
it’s a museum.” “By appointment only. Schoolchildren come, on trips. Documentary filmmakers use the house, I’m the only one left who knows how it isn’t exactly right, what furniture is missing and so on, but it’s close enough. There are people to whom Zack has become a cult, not as big a one as Elvis’s or Marilyn’s but like James Dean’s, say; Zack was a far more important painter than Dean was an actor but, still, car crashes, and that uneasy cocky look—these people should have a place to visit,
white vinyl sculptures just as the market not only for Pop but for every kind of art was cooling,” Hope states. It pleases her to demonstrate that, thanks to her third marriage, she knows how money talks: “The Arabs had embargoed oil shipments to the U.S. because we helped Israel win the Yom Kippur War, and the economy had gone into what they called stagflation for the rest of the decade.” “But Jerome Chafetz didn’t starve.” “You can call him Jerry if you like. Everybody did, even his
sight of a barefoot old lady in her underwear—white underpants, the broad un-bikini, un-thong style, and so-called flesh-colored bra, though not the flesh color of Titian or Fragonard or Bonnard or Modigliani. Her mouth feels dry and loose from all that talking. She sucks at her teeth to see how bad her breath is; she can never quite tell. She licks her fingers, still sticky from the marmalade sandwich, and from the breadbox takes out two brittle Carr’s Hob Nobs and pours herself a small tumbler