From earliest childhood I was charmed by the materials of my craft, by pencils and paper and, later, by the typewriter and the entire apparatus of printing. To condense from one’s memories and fantasies and small discoveries dark marks on paper which become handsomely reproducible many times over still seems to me, after nearly 30 years concerned with the making of books, a magical act, and a delightful technical process. To distribute oneself thus, as a kind of confetti shower falling upon the heads and shoulders of mankind out of bookstores and the pages of magazines is surely a great privilege and a defiance of the usual earthbound laws whereby human beings make themselves known to one another. – John Updike, March 18, 1932 – January 27, 2009
“I’m sad. Someone I like died today.”
We were in the car, my daughter and I.
“What? Who?!” she said.
“John Updike, the writer.”
“Oh,” she said, sinking back into her seat. “Don’t do that to me. I thought you meant somebody you know.”
But I do. I mean, I feel like I do. All of us do who stood in the confetti and felt lucky.
He was a pure pleasure to read. Sometimes I would just stop and reread a sentence or paragraph because it was so original and perfect.
He found humor. His irony was in the right amount. He could be hard, and kind. His fiction was true. He was intensely observant, aware and self-aware. But not neurotic.
My entire reading life he was there, writing new things. He could write about anything. And now there won’t be anything new by Updike.
“I’m sad about Updike,” I emailed my sister Lauren in California. Lauren went to Harvard and was a member of the Lampoon, like Updike, though a few decades later.
She wrote back right away. She was sad too, and she wasn’t getting much done at work. She was reading his poetry instead.
Last night I started rereading Gertrude and Claudius. It is so well-imagined, so rich and smart. I love it the way I love things there won’t be any more of.
WaPo: Rabbit is gone
“He stands, for me, at the very top of the practice of being a man of letters. Each activity was carried on with great
intelligence and wit and love.”
Boston Globe: jeweled prose and quicksilver intellect
Mr. Updike combined diligence with brilliance. Few writers have staged such elegant lexical ballets on the page.
Endowed with an art student’s pictorial imagination, a journalist’s sociological eye and a poet’s gift for metaphor, John Updike — who died on Tuesday at 76 — was arguably this country’s one true all-around man of letters. He moved fluently from fiction to criticism, from light verse to short stories to the long-distance form of the novel: a literary decathlete in our age of electronic distraction and willful specialization, Victorian in his industriousness and almost blogger-like in his determination to turn every scrap of knowledge and experience into words.
Newsweek: ‘A Standard of Beauty’
Telegraph: John Updike: a life in quotes
America is a vast conspiracy to make you happy.
Americans have been conditioned to respect newness, whatever it costs them.
Most of American life consists of driving somewhere and then returning home, wondering why the hell you went.
There is no pleasing New Englanders, my dear, their soil is all rocks and their hearts are bloodless absolutes.
When I write, I aim in my mind not toward New York but toward a vague spot a little to the east of Kansas.
The male sense of space must differ from that of the female, who has such interesting, active, and significant inner space. The space that interests men is outer. The fly ball high against the sky, the long pass spiraling overhead, the jet fighter like a scarcely visible pinpoint nozzle laying down its vapor trail at 40,000 feet, the gazelle haunch flickering just beyond arrow-reach, the uncountable stars sprinkled on their great black wheel, the horizon, the mountaintop, the quasar—these bring portents with them and awaken a sense of relation with the invisible, with the empty. The ideal male body is taut with lines of potential force, a diagram extending outward; the ideal female body curves around centers of repose. – “The Disposable Rocket,” Michigan Quarterly Review (Fall 1993)