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John Updike at rest

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Authorjohnupdike_lAs EW’s book review editor — and a passionate reader — I often tear through a book or more a day. (It helps that I have a long train commute.) But every year, usually during the summer, I set aside some time and meander, once again, through the books I love most, especially John Updike’s marvelous Rabbit novels, which capture the angst of a generation in lean, crisp, wonderfully evocative prose. So when I heard the news that Updike had died this morning at 76, from lung cancer, I felt a real pang: One of the loveliest, most prolific (and certainly the most wide-ranging) American authors of his time has died. Whether he was trying his hand at memoir, drama, essays, poetry (The Carpentered Hen), science fiction (Toward The End of Time), or short stories, whether he was revisiting Hamlet (Gertrude and Claudius), imagining an entertainment empire (In The Beauty of the Lilies) or reviewing books for The New Yorker, somehow the award-winning Updike always returned to the territory he knew best: sex and infidelity. (The New York Times once called him “the bard of the middle-class mundane, the chronicler of suburban anxiety,” an assessment he rather cheerfully agreed with.) His famous 1968 novel, Couples — about marriages in a small Massachusetts town — landed him on the best-seller list; his Rabbit novels followed Rabbit “Harry” Angstrom over the years through marriage, adultery, tragedy. There were authors whom I tired of, but I never tired of Updike, who, even as he grew older, continued to stretch and flex (one of his last novels, 2006’s Terrorist, was about a Muslim terrorist). I’ll miss him dreadfully. And I think I won’t wait until summer to pull about the Rabbit novels; I’ll go home and start tonight.

Please use the comments section below to share your thoughts and memories of this brilliant American author.


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