John Updike, one of the most critically acclaimed American authors of the 20th century, died in Danvers, Mass. on Jan. 26.

Mr. Updike had been battling lung cancer. He was 76.

The author of the “Rabbit” series and countless contributions to the New Yorker magazine was hailed throughout his career as an author whose work elevated the ordinary aspects of American life.

In the spring of 2008, the National Endowment for the Humanities chose Mr. Updike to present the Jefferson Lecture, one of, if not the highest honor in the humanities.

The seeds of his 54-year career were planted when he saw his mother writing at a table, the story goes. He reached huge critical acclaim with his “Rabbit” books, and in 1984, “The Witches of Eastwick” was made into a movie starring Cher, Michelle Pheiffer, Susan Sarandon and Jack Nicholson, and was filmed at the Crane Estate in Essex, Mass.

The prolific author wrote about a novel a year throughout his career. His work ranged from tales of suburban infidelity to magic realism and science fiction. He wrote for television and the stage in addition to his novels and streams of short pieces published in the New Yorker.

Los Angeles Times critic David L. Ulin’s obituary of Mr. Updike, published Jan. 27, casts a quietly tragic light on one of America’s most prolific writers.

Ulin wrote that his image of Mr. Updike will forever remain “as a self-described “Ëœfreelancer,’ who produced a nearly endless stream of book reviews, novels, stories, poems and occasional pieces — more than 60 volumes’ worth in all — because he felt he’d be forgotten if he didn’t keep his name in print.”

Mr. Updike was born in 1932 in Reading, Pa., to author Linda Grace Hoyer Updike and math teacher Wesley Russell Updike. He leaves behind his wife Martha, four children from his first marriage, Elizabeth Pennington, David Hoyer, Michael John and Miranda, and three stepchildren.

Mr. Updike’s work has been hailed as some of the greatest American fiction. There is no doubt in this critic’s mind that he will never be forgotten.

About The Author

Steven H. Bagley is a Blast correspondent

2 Responses

  1. coffee

    the loss of John Updike makes me wonder if the literary world is being replenished at the same rate that it’s losing such great writers

  2. Steve Bagley

    I’m not sure, Coffee. Regardless of whether it is or not, the world was hit hard by the relatively proximate losses of Wallace and Updike.


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