Wednesday, January 28, 2009

John Updike 1932-2009

John Updike, rated by many as one of the greatest writers of the past 100 years, has died at the age of 76.

There are extensive tributes, obituaries and archive materials in The Guardian (including a piece by Martin Amis), The Times, The Telegraph, The Independent and The New York Times.

The New York Times also has a recent video interview and some extracts of his wonderful prose, including this, from the story Separating.
The court, clay, had come through its first winter pitted and windswept bare of redcoat. Years ago the Maples had observed how often, among their friends, divorce followed a dramatic home improvement, as if the marriage were making one last effort to live; their own worst crisis had come amid the plaster dust and exposed plumbing of a kitchen renovation. Yet, a summer ago, as canary-yellow bulldozers gaily churned a grassy, daisy-dotted knoll into a muddy plateau, and a crew of pigtailed young men raked and tamped clay into a plane, this transformation did not strike them as ominous, but festive in its impudence; their marriage could rend the earth for fun.
Updike was a frequent contributer to The New Yorker and it has various tributes including from T.C. Boyle.
What most impressed me about him, aside from his exquisite linguistic ability, was the breadth of his work and the way in which he devoted his life uncompromisingly to literature. His stories are touchstones—I think of the gorgeous and heartbreaking Maples stories—and the Rabbit novels represent an achievement no one has equalled in our time. But perhaps my favorites among all his books are the rollicking, hilarious Bech books, which he seemed to shake out just to demonstrate his range.
Time to head for the bookshelves. I think I'll start with some short stories...


  1. John Updike's passing is sad news indeed... he possessed a truly beautiful mind; he didn't just write well, he wrote wisely

  2. Tom Green9:51 am

    Couldn't agree more. And I think that wisdom has been under-appreciated in many of the tributes.

  3. Anonymous10:27 pm

    We decided to celebrate him in our own story reborn way at flatmancrooked. He will remain a force in the literary world beyond his passing, pushing us all toward excellent, prolific heights. See our commemoration of him at

    Tracy Saville


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