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Rabbit Remembered

Posted at 9:52 AM on January 29, 2009 by Fred Child

American writer and man of letters John Updike died Tuesday. He was 76 years old.

When he was starting out as a writer in his 20s, he set a goal of writing a book a year. He did better than that. He published more than 60 books. And one more is on the way...a collection of poems called "Endpoint" will come out this fall from Knopf.

On Friday's show, we played a song with words by Updike. Biology, from "Updike's Science," a collection of six songs by Brian Holmes, based on clever and goofy poems by Updike. (You can hear those songs below.)

John Updike was a man of many talents. Novelist, poet, critic, librettist, and...golf writer. Nice video tribute here from the Boston Globe's Joe Kahn.

To hear the songs from "Updike's Science," click below.

1. Thermodynamics (based on Updike's "Lament for Cocoa.")
2. Particle Physics (based on Updike's "Cosmic Gall.")
3. Chemistry (based on Updike's "In praise of C10H9O5.")
4. Hydrodynamics (based on Updike's "Bendix.")
5. Meteorology (based on Updike's "The descent of Mr. Aldez.")
6. Biology (based on Updike's "V. B. Nimble, V. B. Quick.")

On all those recordings, it's soprano Cheryl Keller, with Miles Graber at the piano. A concert in Oakland from 1998. Recordings provided by the composer, Brian Holmes. (Thanks, Brian!)

The first of Brian Holmes' song cycle is based on Updike's "Lament for Cocoa."

The scum has come.
My cocoa's cold.
The cup is numb,
And I grow old.

It seems an age
Since from the pot
It bubbled, beige
And burning hot --

Too hot to be
Too quickly quaffed.
I found a draft

And in it placed
The boiling brew
And took a taste
Of toast or two.

Alas time flies
And minutes chill;
My cocoa lies
Dull brown and still.

How wearisome!
In likelihood,
The scum, once come,
Is come for good.

John Birge, the morning host at Classical Minnesota Public Radio, does a lovely Thanksgiving show every year. To listen to John Updike reading his own poetry on John's 2002 show, click here.

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