20 MARCH 1976, Page 25


Peter Ackroyd

Picked-up Pieces John Updike (Andre Deutsch £6.95) The idea, or at least the American idea, is that all the pieces—picked up from magazines, paperback editions of the classics, and from lecture halls—will somehow fit together and add one more limb to this American Writer, now so Great that even fifteen line reviews must be rescued and printed in this 'first volume of non-fiction for ten years'.

To fill a book with more than five hundred pages of occasional writing implies a certain absence of self-criticism on Mr Updike's part, and in this collection he moves all too smoothly from travelogue to pastiche, from ritual book reviewing on to some self-communings about being rich and famous. But he can also be a writer of sharp, clear prose and the diligent reader will come across some palpable hits: his essays on Hemingway and Borges, and his personal recollections of Thurber and Mailer, are among them.