John Updike dead at 76


John Updike, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, prolific man of letters and erudite chronicler of sex, divorce and other adventures in the postwar prime of the American empire, died Tuesday at age 76.

An old-fashioned believer in hard work, he published more than 50 books in a career that started in the 1950s. Updike won virtually every literary prize, including two Pulitzers, for “Rabbit Is Rich” and “Rabbit at Rest,” and two National Book Awards.

Seven Stanzas at Easter, By John Updike:

Make no mistake: if He rose at all

it was as His body;

if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules

reknit, the amino acids rekindle,

the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,

each soft Spring recurrent;

it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled

eyes of the eleven apostles;

it was as His Flesh: ours.

From the Washington Post in 2004:

Through the years, Updike nearly always attended church. In his autumn, he has become a regular at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Beverly Farms. “The Episcopal church is a good place for a half-assed Lutheran to settle,” he says. “I need the pinch of salt that religion gives.”

Boston Globe:

…there was the description of Fenway Park, “a lyric little bandbox of a ballpark,” in Mr. Updike’s classic account of Ted Williams’ final game, “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu.”

It was Mr. Updike’s boyhood attachment to Williams, as well as access to area beaches, that brought the Pennsylvania native to the North Shore, in 1957. He lived north of Boston the rest of life….

A later, longer, AP report.

Marc Ambinder: Updike at one with his neutrons.

TPM Cafe has thoughts and quotes from Updike’s tribute to Ted Williams:

But immortality is nontransferable. The papers said that the other players, and even the umpires on the field, begged him to come out and acknowledge us in some way, but he refused. Gods do not answer letters.

Updike’s essay on NPR’s “This I Believe

“Cosmically, I seem to be of two minds. The power of materialist science to explain everything — from the behavior of the galaxies to that of molecules, atoms and their sub-microscopic components — seems to be inarguable and the principal glory of the modern mind. On the other hand, the reality of subjective sensations, desires and — may we even say — illusions, composes the basic substance of our existence, and religion alone, in its many forms, attempts to address, organize and placate these. I believe, then, that religious faith will continue to be an essential part of being human, as it has been for me.”

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