Thursday, January 29, 2009

Rabbit at Rest, 1932-2009

Sad to find out that John Updike died on Tuesday. I’m remembering seeing him speak at the Nashville Public Library in November of 2006, when the NPL gave Updike their Literary Award.

I don’t know if he knew lung cancer was taking him then, if he did, it didn’t show. What a lovely man, a writer who lived to write and wrote for readers. Seemed to often have the certain kind of smile on his face of a man laughing at his own joke. New Yorker cartoonist extraordinaire George Booth struck me much the same way, when I met him as a grad student in the mid-80s—showing panel after panel and breathlessly chuckling to himself, much the way you would expect one of his classic cartoon dogs to laugh.

Read his NY Times obit here. Don’t miss the “Conversation With John Updike” video segment.

Updike wrote more than 50 books, won two Pulitzers, and two National Book Awards. But after all these years—publishing his first story with them in 1955—he was still writing book reviews and short stories for the New Yorker, one of the things in which I think he took the most pride.

“I would write ads for deodorants or labels for catsup bottles, if I had to,” he told The Paris Review in 1967. “The miracle of turning inklings into thoughts and thoughts into words and words into metal and print and ink never palls for me.”