Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Witches of Eastwick

I'm a bit amazed to say it, because I generally like Updike, but I feel a bit lackluster about The Witches of Eastwick. It is my fourth foray into his stuff, and so far nothing quite lives up to my initial love of In The Beauty of the Lilies.
In this book [published in 1984] we meet these three Rhode Island witches during the Vietnam era. And they are REAL witches, which is to say they can cast spells to great effect. They can turn a sunny day into a thunderstorm, change a tennis ball into an egg or a flying bat during a serve, and cause innocent animals to keel over and die all the time.
I don't believe at all in the paranormal or even the supernatural -- but let be, I willingly suspended my imagination. The witchcraft itself was not really the problem. What bothered me to the point of distraction was the despicable nature of the characters. These women use their witchy powers for evil, and never for good.
They seem to exist for a very limited number of reasons, namely: a) to have sex with every man in town, b) to avoid responsibility toward their own children, and c) to cause unmitigated mayhem to all citizens of Eastwick, even to the point of murder.
They are extremely horny women that act too much like... extremely horny men.
I hope that in itself is not some kind of sexist comment -- but I could never really believe in their flippant and crass attitude toward sex. Again, I'm not suggesting that flippancy and crassness in these areas is the exclusive domain of men, I guess I'm just saying that Updike seemed to be overstating the point, in my opinion. Too much hyperbole.
When the mysterious [supposedly] wealthy New Yorker, Darryl Van Horne, [a Satan figure] arrives in Eastwick and moves into a legendary old mansion, the Magic Nymphos zero in on him, and compete for his affections. There are elements of humor to the story, but the overall pettiness of these three dames bungle it for me. I was a bit disappointed.
Since I already have the sequel on my shelf [The Widows of Eastwick] I do believe I will one day pick it up and give Updike a chance to redeem himself. But for me, a great book has to have at least one admirable character in it, or something that captivates me and that I can cheer for, or maybe aspire toward. And in this book, there is no one.
In fact, I would hesitate to watch the movie version of this book because Michelle Pfeiffer plays the role of Sukie Rougemont, one of the witchy trio.
And I LIKE Michelle Pfeiffer too much -- see my predicament?



Stefanie said...

I liked the movie of the book much better than I liked the book. I saw the movie first so maybe that had something to do with it. Don't know, but the movie, I think, is pretty decent.

Beth said...

I read The Witches of Eastwick years ago but was not inspired to then read The Widows of Eastwick.

I find it hard to believe you’d hesitate to watch ANY movie with Michelle Pfeiffer in it!

Alyce said...

I haven't seen the movie or read the book, so I have no basis for judgment. I can't stand it when male writers put masculine feelings and descriptions on female characters though (when it's not warranted).