Updike: An Author 'Hoping to Talk to America'

Superlatives hardly lacking in wake of writer's death at 76
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 27, 2009 3:44 PM CST
Updike in 1990.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – John Updike, who died today at 76, was many things: Bob Ryan, in the Boston Globe, calls him the author of the “most spellbinding essay ever written about baseball.” For Carolyn Kellogg, in the Los Angeles Times, the first line of his story A&P displays a “durability that authors can only hope for.” The bottom line: “He looked deeply and clearly into the swamps of human experience,” Lev Grossman writes in Time, “and reported back to us what he saw with a matchless precision.”

For Ryan, reading Updike’s essay about Ted Williams’ last game “is the visual equivalent of listening over and over again to a favorite song that never offends the ears.” Updike was modest about his work. “I’m a genre writer of a sort,” he told Grossman. “I write literary fiction, which is like spy fiction or chick lit. I was hoping to talk to America.”