The literary world lost a giant this week—John Updike passed away of lung cancer at the age of 76. The prolific contemporary American author was known for his vivid portrayals of middle-class American life. In his lifetime, he crafted 60 novels, hundreds of short stories, essays, children’s books, and poetry, as well as art and literary criticism. He was a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books.
Christopher Lehmann-Haupt of The New York Times eloquently eulogized Updike this week, calling him “a lyrical writer of the middle-class man.” Haupt dubbed Updike a “kaleidoscopically gifted writer whose quartet of Rabbit novels highlighted a body of fiction, verse, essays and criticism so vast, protean and lyrical as to place him in the first rank of American authors.”
I had the chance to meet Updike a few years ago when he spoke at my alma mater’s Festival of Faith and Writing Conference. I suppose “meet” is pushing it a bit; rather, I had him sign a copy of Rabbit, Run and nervously said, “I’m a real fan.”
Lehmann-Haupt said it better than I did: “He wrote about America with boundless curiosity and wit in prose so careful and attentive that it burnished the ordinary with a painterly gleam.”