Tuesday, January 27, 2009

An "Actual" Writer

Acclaimed writer John Updike dies at 76

By Mark Feeney, Globe Staff

John Updike, a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, whose jeweled prose and quicksilver intellect made him for decades one of America's foremost literary figures, died today. He was 76.

Mr. Updike, a long-time resident of Beverly Farms, died of lung cancer at Hospice of the North Shore in Danvers, said his wife, Martha.

"He was obviously among the best writers in the world,'' said David Remnick, editor the New Yorker, Mr. Updike's literary home for more than half a century.

A master of many authorial trades, Mr. Updike was novelist, short story writer, critic, poet -- and in each role as prolific as he was gifted. He aimed to produce a book a year. Easily meeting that goal, Mr. Updike published some 60 volumes. The first was a collection of poems, "The Carpentered Hen" (1958). "My Father’s Tears and Other Stories" is scheduled to be published in June.

Mr. Updike combined diligence with brilliance. Few writers have staged such elegant lexical ballets on the page. "The scrape and snap of Keds" fill "the moist March air" in the opening of Mr. Updike’s second novel "Rabbit, Run" (1960). Thirty years later, in "Rabbit at Rest," something as mundane as angina becomes “that singeing sensation he gets as if a child inside him is playing with lighted matches.”

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