|A Fond Farewell to John Updike
John Updike died yesterday in Danvers, Massachusetts at the age of 76. He was a very prolific writer and one of America’s greatest in the 20th century. Besides 30 novels and collections of stories, he published nine volumes of poetry, plus assorted memoirs and children’s stories as well as criticism and occasional journalism.
Whatever his day to day life was like, the time required for such a voluminous output articulates how he spent the majority of his time in a very long career as a writer.
He was born on March 18, 1932 at the beginning of the Great Depression in Reading, Pennsylvania, the son of well educated people who struggled greatly through that decade. His mother was a short story writer who never quite succeeded. His father worked to made ends meet as a teacher and a laborer.
When Updike was 11, his paternal Aunt Mary gave him a subscription to The New Yorker. That gift perhaps was the spark that eventually led him to a great career. He originally was inspired by the magazine to become a cartoonist and while at Harvard in the 1950s he drew cartoons for the Harvard Lampoon. But he also wrote stories for college magazines and that got him attention. After a stint at Oxford in England, he returned to America where he was offered a column in The New Yorker.
|John Updike backstage at the 92nd St. Y.|
|His first successful novel was Rabbit Run, published in 1960. He had written two novels before that along with two books of short stories. Rabbit Run was followed by Couples in 1968 which hit the best-seller list.
Like many of his generation, his life was active, turbulent and transformed by the changes in American society that occurred during the 1960s and 1970s. His first marriage to his wife Mary, with whom he had four children, ended, and he remarried his second wife, Martha. He lived most of his adult life in Massachusetts, first in Ipswich and then in Beverly Farms on the North Shore, drawing on life in those exurban New England communities to expand his literary horizons.
Our esteemed photojournalist Jill Krementz was a friend of the author from the mid-1960s throughout the rest of his life. Yesterday she put together an album of photographs she took of the man between 1967 through 1994. His presence was distinguished by a natural courtesy and old-fashioned good manners which belied the “uncompromising style” of his fiction. Jill’s photographs thoroughly indicate that presence, as if the portfolio were a personality study also revealing a natural source of gladness and humor.
|With poet Mary Lavin at the 92nd St. Y.|
|John with Jerzy Kosinski following the reading.|
|John in his study in Ipswich, Massachusetts.|
|Pen dinner with Yevgeny Aleksandrovich Yevtushenko and John Cheever.|
|John in Boston, Massachusetts, 1975.|
|John Updike published over 50 books. The inscription on this particular copy of Picked-Up Pieces reads: "For Jill Krementz whose picture wagged the title and the title wagged the book ... many thanks and much affection, John U."|
|Georgetown, Massachusetts, October, 1979.|
|Georgetown, Massachusetts, December, 1979.|
|John and Martha with Liz, David, Miranda, and Michael, December, 1979.|
|Jumping rope, 1979.|
|John with William Gass and Eudora Welty at The American Academy of Arts & Letters.|
|Updike with Cheever at The American Academy of Arts & Letters, May 23, 1979.|
|Updike with Kurt Vonnegut backstage at the 92nd Street Y, 1981.|
|Three generations of writers for The New Yorker: John with his son, David, and mother, Linda, at the Pennsylvania farmhouse of his childhood, 1988.|
|John Updike had 3 desks: One for writing ... one for reading his mail (below) ...|
|And one for his printer.|
|At the local post office where he picked up his mail every day.||An avid golfer, always carrying his own clubs.|
|All photographs © by Jill Krementz: all rights reserved.|