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I Missed His Book, But I Read His Name -- John Updike

Guest poem submitted by Ashvin K. George:
(Poem #788) I Missed His Book, But I Read His Name
 Though authors are a dreadful clan
 To be avoided if you can,
 I'd like to meet the Indian,
 M. Anantanarayanan.

 I picture him as short and tan.
 We'd meet, perhaps, in Hindustan.
 I'd say, with admirable elan ,
 "Ah, Anantanarayanan --

 I've heard of you. The Times once ran
 A notice on your novel, an
 Unusual tale of God and Man."
 And Anantanarayanan

 Would seat me on a lush divan
 And read his name -- that sumptuous span
 Of 'a's and 'n's more lovely than
 "In Xanadu did Kubla Khan" --

 Aloud to me all day. I plan
 Henceforth to be an ardent fan
 of Anantanarayanan --
 M. Anantanarayanan.
-- John Updike
Somebody told me that John Updike had written a poem on the name
Ananthanarayanan; simply because he liked the sound of it. (I found this on
google: I hope it has been correctly transcribed). It's quite amusing and
well constructed (if you can overlook the fact that his pronunciation of
Anantanarayanan rhymes with fan rather than fun), with an appropriately
comedic rhyme scheme. It's given me a new appreciation of south Indian names
:). I don't know anything about the real Anantanarayanan, but you can buy
his book[1] on


[1] "The Silver Pilgrimage," by M. Anantanarayanan. 160 pages. Criterion.

[Minstrels Links]

Coleridge's poem "Kubla Khan": poem #30

30 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Ashvin Kurian George said...

I just got an email from the Madhavan, the son of M.Anantanarayanan, who
apparently tracked me down from the minstrels page, and says the
following about his father and the poem:

M. Anantanarayanan died in 1981. He
had been High Court judge and Chief Justice in
Chennai, (Madras) till 1969. I am one of his five
children. Now 68, I am a retired diplomat, living in

and, in another email, continues:

John Updike wrote this poem in 1962 or
thereabouts and it is published in his
"Telegraph Poles" and in his Selected Verse. Yes, my
father knew about the poem, because I think it was
published in "Time magazine" and somebody brought it
to his notice. He was amused and told me of a clerihew
on his name by a friend of his in Cambridge in 1928! "

ah.. the strange things that happen on the internet.


A Thyagaraja said...

Dear Mr George,

I read your comment on the internet just now.

You might be interested to learn that I am the last (3rd) son of Mr M
Anantanarayanan. I am called "Anantanarayanan Thyagaraja" (I was named after
the great Carnatic musician of Thanjavur, where I was born). I am a
theoretical physicist and have lived and worked in the UK for the last 28
years. While I was studying in the US for my PhD, my supervisor at CalTech,
Prof. P.A. Lagerstrom used to introduce me to his friends saying, "this
young man has 11 a's in his name!" To spare my friends such linguistic
contortions, I have always been called "Chippy", a name given to me by my
mother since childhood.



(A Thyagaraja)

AIB Internet Banking said...

I bet this guy benefited from being alive before his last name became a silly combination of words resulting in an uncouth joke.

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