Tuesday, January 27, 2009
A Passing: John Updike March 18, 1932 – January 27, 2009
No matter what you think of his work, it's impossible not to recognize John Updike as one of the United State's premier men of letters in the 20th century. With over fifty books, including a number of bestsellers, two Pulitzers, two National Book Awards, countless essays and reviews, the man was a prolific success and recognized as a literary writer at the same time. This is increasingly hard to pull off, it appears. Considering him, he almost seems the last of dying breed.
I saw him speak once, at The Florida Suncoast Writer's Conference, circa 1997. After his keynote speech, I went up to the podium hoping to shake his hand, make that brief corporeal contact with a legend, but there were too many people lingering around him and I gave it up.
I always admired Updike's carefully crafted style. If his characters failed to move me, it was probably due in large part to my carefully cultivated disdain for middle-class suburbian life. The most recent work of Updike's that I read is a poem. I first heard it recited at an academic panel on scatology. It is called, "The Beautiful Bowel Movement." It showed me another side of him, one that I had to respect.
John Updike, dead at 76....He shall be missed.