John Updike died yesterday at the age of 76. A classmate announced it in one of my English classes - turns out that we were discussing realism that day too.
It had seemed that John Updike was the one man who would never stop writing. He often crafted sentences that drew our attention to a detail of suburban life that we would never have otherwise noticed. And crafted a vast, rolling landscape of them - enough reading to last well beyond his death. There was a poignancy in the care he took to portray American life, as flawed as it is. On the subject of suburban adultery, which was often a topic of his writing (as in Rabbit, Run), Updike said it was "a subject which, if I have not exhausted, has exhausted me."
And not only did he write novels - so many of them - he wrote essays, short stories, poetry... even continued to write reviews. It's probable that he frustrated many with his prolific writing - how can one person write so much and possibly have it be so good? - but it's certain he also charmed many more.
Sometime last year, Rabbit, Run became the first work of John Updike's that I had read. I won't spoil it, but I loved it. Certain passages are absolutely tragic. And fortunately, he left a lot more to us.
From Rabbit, Run:
"I had forgotten," she says.Sure, it's a conversation about orgasm, but the quote has its resonances in death as well.
"That I ... could have it too."
"What’s it like?"
"Oh. It’s like falling through."
"Where do you fall to?"
"Nowhere. I can’t talk about it."