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John Updike, 1932 - 2009
January 29, 2009 |
We received an overwhelming response to GK's readings on the January 31st show. The text and books from which the readings were taken are now posted, as is the audio in both MP3 and Real Audio formats. You might also enjoy reading our collection of John Updike's poems on The Writer's Almanac
Post to the Host:
Hope your show will do a tribute to one of America's greatest writers, John Updike.
I'm working on it, Kathleen. I had invited John Updike to read on the show and he demurred at first and then seemed interested and I thought we were going to be able to get him for Tanglewood this year, but no. I didn't know him but I've admired him since I was in college and he was just getting attention with his stories. I first met him in the 19th floor hallway of The New Yorker in 1989 or so. He'd been such a hero of mine that it was like running into Ted Williams or Cary Grant what can you say? nothing. You just stand there and make yourself not say things, like "For me, you are the greatest living, you embody what I hope for in American literature" so we just nodded and smiled at each other. And then a few years ago, we did a promotional interview together for an anthology that included something of his and something of mine, a collegial moment. He was a beaming man in his later years; his eyes glittered, he had a generous smile. When I last saw him, a year ago, we were at a literary function in far uptown Manhattan where he'd read a moving tribute to Kurt Vonnegut. He walked with me and my wife to the subway and I got to compliment him on Gertrude and Claudius which I had just read. We rode downtown together, and a band of seminary students boarded our car and recognized him and said all the things I'd made myself not say years ago. He was very gracious with them, jokey and off-hand. He was a great man, and when he wrote me a note saying he liked a story of mine, I treasured that more than one should. He was an uncomplaining writer, a genius but also a workman, and he seemed to pick up energy in his last decade, which is encouraging to the rest of us. The Centaur is still my favorite of his books, a work of filial devotion, with the Olinger stories a close second. God bless his memory. I'll try to find a few things of his to read, just to put him in mind and maybe some people will go look him up in the library. Thanks to his enormous ambitions and good habits, he left us plenty to read.