John Updike, One of the Great Figures of American Literature, Passes Away

01/27/2009

American literature has a few authors who, by their longevity and prolificness, have made a mark on the world of letters. One such man is John Updike, who was not only an author of such classics as the Rabbit books (Rabbit Run, Rabbit Redux, Rabbit is Rich, Rabbit at Rest, and the “posthumous” Rabbit Remembered), but was the author of dozens of novels, more than a hundred short stories, and innumerable articles and essays. A fixture at the New Yorker, Updike wrote about literature with passion.

For those who haven’t read Updike, the best way to discover his work is to read the four Rabbit novels, written at an interval of about a decade each, which tells the story of an “everyman” as he goes through his life. The four novels, available in a single volume (an attractive, well-produced and laid out hardcover), make up a narrative as powerful and as complete as anything in American literature. In these books, Updike is a kind of American Proust, even though Updike’s present-tense writing has nothing of the elegance of Proust. But the story is so profound, so complex, that it is unforgettable. I’m going to take my copy out and re-read it. If you’ve never read it, now’s the time.

P.S.: Read the tributes over at the New Yorker, Updike’s second home. It’s very moving to see how much Updike touched so many other writers.