Lorrie Moore: The Complete Updike

Posted by Kendall Harmon

IT has been a hard year or so for writers. The world seems to grow emptier and emptier, depletion without replenishment, and now with the passing of John Updike at the age of 76, death has taken perhaps its biggest prize.

Literature, of course, is not a contest. Still, that Stockholm did not ultimately embrace Mr. Updike — a Nobel, why not? — seems too bad, as it probably would have meant a lot to him, and to us as well to have his erudition and hard work and enthusiastic witnessing of postwar America honored on such a stage. The news that he died in a hospice not far from his house, and the new ordinariness of this current manner of death, made me wonder what he would have noticed and written about it —“I’m sure it will be discovered he was taking notes,” a friend said, hopefully — for he was gifted at describing everything.

Mr. Updike’s novels wove an explicit and teeming tapestry of male and female appetites. He noticed astutely, precisely, unnervingly. His stories, some of the best ever written by anyone, were jewels of existential comedy, domestic anguish and restraint.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooks* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

Posted January 29, 2009 at 12:20 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. David Hein wrote:

Thanks so much. The best piece I’ve read so far on Mr. Updike. I met him only once, but he couldn’t have been more pleasant in conversation. At one point, while at the University of Chicago, I planned to write my dissertation on him. Later I switched to Abraham Lincoln. But I continued to read and teach Updike—all the way through this past December, when my honors class read his Rabbit, Run.

Like the author of this piece, I had expected—hoped—that we had at least another ten good years left of new fiction, nonfiction, and poetry from this great American—who, yes, should have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. The prize, not Mr. Updike, is diminished by that exclusion.

I seriously doubt that we will ever see another writer so good at presenting the religious quest—the sense of religious longing—as he, nor one so fully conversant with the theological greats.

January 29, 4:17 pm | [comment link]
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