DETAILS: You’re a Christian, churchgoing person; how do you justify all the sex in your work?

UPDIKE: Well, it exists, and there’s no denying it. And not even the Bible denies it as a powerful force. Freud tells us it’s really the only force. So I can’t be apologetic. It’s what makes the world go round. Christian or not, churchgoer or not, you sort of have to describe it—but then I guess I describe it with the zeal and the ardor that comes from a deprived adolescence. I worry about kids now in their rather sexually hip world, whether they’ll have anything left by the time they’re 25. But that’s their problem and not mine. I don’t know. A Christian novelist tries to describe the world as it is.

DETAILS: It always struck me that there’s this fusion of sex and faith, like the more repression you have, the more you want something

UPDIKE: Religion and sex both give you a sort of energy, as you can see by the number of Protestant clergymen who would get involved with the lead singer in the choir. It was kind of a sexy atmosphere, this energy, this sort of saying “yes!” to life and participating in life is I guess what both endeavors do. During the era when swinging was being tried in a more-or-less formal way, a lot of the swingers were mid-Western squares who just did this the way other people would play bridge.

DETAILS: With all the casual sex that teenagers seem to engage in now, I wonder if the act itself has lost its mystery.

UPDIKE: Freud says that for the tide of libido to swell to its height, it needs an obstacle. And there is something about the loss of all these repressive forces that makes people less sexy. But I’m speaking like an old geezer, out of the game. So, who am I? God, if you think your generation was repressed—in the Forties and Fifties, the only thing was to marry the girl.

DETAILS: But I’m wondering how does a writer deal with sex, now that so much of the romance seems stripped away? How do you deal with it?

UPDIKE: When I wrote Couples and even Rabbit Run, I was convinced that it was important to describe what happened, that people carry their personalities into bed. And it wasn’t some blank ecstasy that you could close the door on, but that, in some way, you should try to show what’s happening. And it was exciting to see this stuff in print—but the moment has long passed. Now, the challenge is to find imagery that will be new and exciting. We’re bored with the same old in-and-out.

DETAILS: What do you think of the fundamentalist-Christian movement here?

UPDIKE: I think the attempt to regulate morality, to get the degree of theocratic power that would allow them to start rolling back legal abortion, would be an alarming step backward. There’s a certain wish to keep government out of wherever it doesn’t need to be. All that is sort of alarming. I know how they feel—it’s the way my young character feels in my new book. His faith feels threatened by the modern world. But that’s the way it is. And you have to learn to live with it, and if you choose to keep some faith, you have to realize that you’re doing it kind of against the cultural tide.