John Updike, a beacon of literary sensibility in a hectic age, has died today at age 76.
When I was younger, I saw John Updike as the smirking epitome of the American literary establishment and claimed to dislike him, though somehow I kept reading him and liking him more and more with each novel I read. Eventually I realized he was among my very favorite living writers. Couples
, a study of the psychology of adultery masked as a sex-filled popular bestseller, may have been his masterpiece. Other works of his I've loved best include Too Far To Go
, Marry Me
, Gertrude and Claudius
and his great volumes of generous, gorgeously composed literary criticism, such as Picked-Up Pieces
, Hugging the Shore
, Odd Jobs
, More Matter
and the recent Due Considerations
. His short stories provide unending pleasure, his slim autobiography Self-Consciousness
is also wonderful, and nobody who intends to enjoy the Updike oeuvre
should miss Nicholson Baker's crazily affectionate tribute to his own favorite writer, U and I
Unlike other bloggers, I never really feel sad when a great writer dies. A life lived as art deserves a meaningful ending, and my greatest wish for a literary giant like John Updike is that he achieve a final chapter that would satisfy him. I wish John Updike's last novel wasn't The Widows of Eastwick
, but Updike's career was always characterized by a wide scope, and perhaps this ending will eventually explain itself. I am happy that I got a chance to ask him a question
two and a half years ago, and I was thrilled at the time that he seemed to like my question. I feel honored to have briefly shared his literary space.
Other LitKicks posts concerning John Updike are here
(by Jamelah), here
(in which I contrast him with Philip Roth), here
(in which I get pissed off at him), here
(in which I compare him to Henry James).