RIP: John Updike


The literary legend passed away today at the age of 76.  Updike will best be remembered for his series of Rabbit novels: Rabbit Run, Rabbit Redux, etc.

It was lung cancer that struck down the titan at his howe in Beverly Farms, Mass., according to his longtime publisher Alfred A. Knopf.

A literary writer who frequently appeared on best-seller lists, the tall, hawk-nosed Updike wrote novels, short stories, poems, criticism, the memoir “Self-Consciousness” and even a famous essay about baseball great Ted Williams.

He released more than 50 books in a career that started in the 1950s, winning virtually every literary prize, including two Pulitzers, for “Rabbit Is Rich” and “Rabbit at Rest,” and two National Book Awards.

Although himself deprived of a Nobel, he did bestow it upon one of his fictional characters, Henry Bech, the womanizing, egotistical Jewish novelist who collected the literature prize in 1999.

His settings ranged from the court of “Hamlet” to postcolonial Africa, but his literary home was the American suburb, the great new territory of mid-century fiction.

Born in 1932, Updike spoke for millions of Depression-era readers raised by “penny-pinching parents,” united by “the patriotic cohesion of World War II” and blessed by a “disproportionate share of the world’s resources,” the postwar, suburban boom of “idealistic careers and early marriages.”

He captured, and sometimes embodied, a generation’s confusion over the civil rights and women’s movements, and opposition to the Vietnam War. Updike was called a misogynist, a racist and an apologist for the establishment.

On purely literary grounds, he was attacked by Norman Mailer as the kind of author appreciated by readers who knew nothing about writing. Last year, judges of Britain’s Bad Sex in Fiction Prize voted Updike lifetime achievement honors.
But more often he was praised for his flowing, poetic writing style. Describing a man’s interrupted quest to make love, Updike likened it “to a small angel to which all afternoon tiny lead weights are attached.”

It’s time to dust off that collection of Rabbit novels and a few short story collections. It’s been too long since I’ve strolled down the literary cobbelstone with Updike – the finest example of literatary writing blended with an acute populism.

He also had a hilarious cameo on The Simpsons once, as the ghost writer of Krusty the Klown’s autobiography.   So, you know, that makes his doubly awesome.  He leaves behind four children and his second wife, Martha.

For now you can chew over Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu a profile between Ted Williams and his relationship with Red Sox fans.

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