The Great Ones Are Dying

I’m sure I was the last to hear, but John Updike died this morning of cancer at the age of 76.  I was thinking of Updike just last night, an early literary hero in mybook, thinking of how all that gorgeous and absolutely beautiful prose towers over the ephemera that passes for literary writing today.  I know all the complaints, and maybe later I’ll explain why they are all hogwash, but for now I just know that he will be missed, by me if by no one else.

My first published essay as an academic was on Updike.  Following is the first paragraph:

In trying to explain to a friend how I could be fascinated, even in love with so sexist, racist, and superficial a literary monstrosity as John Updike, I responded that Updike’s prose provoked in me intense moments of cultural recognition, that even if I recognized other writers as abstractly superior; even if I am more concerned with Reformed theological individualism; even if the racism is egregious and the pornography is too often tedious–still, Updike is a homeboy I cannot give up, his inadequacies and genteel perversities too much like those of a brother or sister or uncle with whom we must stand arm in arm for family portraits, frozen in an uneasy embrace.

From “Scribbling for a Life: Masculinity, Doctrine, and Style in John Updike.” Christianity and Literature. 43.3-4 (1994): 329-346.

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