The writer must face the fact that ordinary lives are what most people live most of the time, and that the novel as a narration of the fantastic and the adventurous is usually an escapist plot, that aesthetically the ordinary, the banal, is what you must deal with. So I tried to make interesting narratives out of ordinary life by obscure and average Americans.One of America's greatest authors has passed away yesterday, aged 76, after battling lung cancer.
John Updike was that rare animal - a best-selling author who enjoyed literary acclaim winning the Pulitzer twice. His novels include the four novels in the Rabbit series, featuring onetime basketball star Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom who becomes a car dealer in a small town.
Perhaps though his most widely known novel was The Witches of Eastwick which was turned into a film. His most recent novel is a sequel : The Widows of Eastwick, which came out last year. A collection of short fiction My Father's Tears and Other Stories is due out in June.
The BBC has a list of Updike quotations (from which I took the one above), and here's another lovely one about being a writer:
There's a kind of confessional impulse that not every literate, intelligent person has. A crazy belief that you have some exciting news about being alive, and I guess that more than talent is what separates those who do it from those who think they'd like to do it. That your witness to the universe can't be duplicated, that only you can provide it, and that it's worth providing.Meanwhile, the tributes flow in.
Mitchiko Kakutani in The New York Times calls him :
... 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.... (But) It is as a novelist who opened a big picture window on the American middle class in the second half of the 20th century, however, that he will be best remembered. In his most resonant work, Mr. Updike gave “the mundane its beautiful due,” as he once put it, memorializing the everyday mysteries of love and faith and domesticity with extraordinary nuance and precision. In Kodachrome-sharp snapshots, he gave us the 50’s and early 60’s of suburban adultery, big cars and wide lawns, radios and hi-fi sets, and he charted the changing landscape of the 70’s and 80’s, as malls and subdivisions swallowed up small towns and sexual and social mores underwent a bewildering metamorphosis.I'll put in links to other interesting pieces as I find them.
The Guardian has Updike's life in pictures and a whole list of authors including Richard Ford and Toni Morisson pay tribute. I like what Zadie Smith says :
Updike's example seemed the model of a real writer's life, in that this was an existence spent not in talking about writing, promising to write, boasting of having written or telling other people how they should write, but simply in the act of writing, every day, for decades.There's another piece here by Martin Amis - and I impressed to learn that Updike had four studies in his house, each for a different type of writing! John Mulland and John Sutherland suggest the best titles to begin with, if you're embarking on your own voyage of Updike discovery.
The Telegraph has an interview with the author from last year.