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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A John Updike Remembrance

John Updike, author and chronicler of America in the twentieth century has died. An obiturary is online now at the New York Times.

In issue #3 of Hayden's Ferry Review (dated spring of 1988) Updike was interviewed by Dean Stover and T.M. McNally. When asked how he felt about how critics viewed his work, he replied this way:

"I've led in some ways a sheltered life. I've not been wounded in Italy like Hemingway and I've never fought marlin at sea. I'm a product of the nearly forty years of cold war. So naturally I've written about domestic, rather peacable matters, while trying always to elicit the violence and tension that does exist beneath the surface of even the most peace-seeming life. That is, I think I see human life as basically difficult and paradoxical. Just being a human animal puts us into a paradoxical and somewhat painful situation: we are a death forseeing animal and an animal of mental appetite; we have a Faustian side always wanting more or something else.

Anyway, I've never felt myself trivial. It's up to other people, I suppose, to see how important or relevant what I deliver is. Each writer has to sing his own song, has to deliver what struck him as worth telling."

He leaves behind a wealth of novels including the Rabbit series (Rabbit Run, Rabbit Redux, Rabbit is Rich, and Rabbit at Rest), books of poetry, criticism, and hundreds of short stories, a form that he practiced to mastery.

He will be missed.


Elizabeth said...

This is sad news indeed. When someone whose work you respect dies, the world seems just a little darker doesn't it? As if a little hole as formed, perhaps.

RIP Mr. Updike.

billyredster said...

He will most certainly be missed. Mr. Updike was so sparkling a sentence-maker for such an incredible length of time that I think by the end the critics had begun to take him for granted. Expect the plaudits to come thick and fast now, though...
There has been no better exponent of the short story over the past fifty years, and he casts a long shadow over fiction writers everywhere. It is nothing short of disgraceful that he has been yet another deserving voice overlooked by the Nobel Prize committee. I'm greatly saddened by his passing, but we should all rejoice in the legacy that he has left behind.