Talking to a 'Terrorist'

(Editor's Note: this is a partial transcript of an interview with John Updike, author of the new book "Terrorist." The interview was conducted by Richard Wolinsky, the host of Bookwaves on Cover to Cover, a weekly radio program on KPFA Pacifica Radio. The full interview is available for download from AlterNet.)

Richard Wolinsky: Your new book, Terrorist, deals with the education of an American terrorist, you're moving it to a more overtly political sphere. What do you think is the role of the artist or the writer in terms of politics, or the social setting?

John Updike: A writer is a citizen as well as being a writer, and certainly will have certain opinions and shouldn't try to tkeep those opinions out of his fiction. On the other hand, a book that tells us how to vote, or even how to feel, or what causes to back, I think is in danger of becoming really one-dimensional, and propagandist and of rather little worth as a novel.

The very nature of fiction, which moves from character to character with some sympathy or understanding for everybody, should preclude any simple messages as far as politics go. However, there are politics in my novels and in my life. I was raised as a Roosevelt Democrat by a father and a mother who turned to Roosevelt during the Depression, and that has pretty much stayed with me. I have lived most of my adult life now under Republican administrations that I didn't vote for.

But I certainly am not a rabid anti-Republican. I think both parties should get some power now and then, just to know what it's like to hold the power. Obviously holding power is one thing, and not really having it and being able to criticize other people's decisions is another.

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