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Excerpts: Updike in his own words

US novelist John Updike, who has died of cancer at the age of 76, talked about his life and work in interviews. Brief excerpts from some of these follow:


"The writer must face the fact that ordinary lives are what most people live most of the time, and that the novel as a narration of the fantastic and the adventurous is usually an escapist plot, that aesthetically the ordinary, the banal, is what you must deal with. So I tried to make interesting narratives out of ordinary life by obscure and average Americans."

BBC Radio 4's Front Row programme, 2008


"I began with fairly crass ambitions. I knew there were writers who wore tweed coats and lived in Connecticut and somehow made a living, and that's what I aimed to do. I've tried to write as well as I can with books that say something to any reader."

Wall Street Journal, 2005


"There's a kind of confessional impulse that not every literate, intelligent person has. A crazy belief that you have some exciting news about being alive, and I guess that more than talent is what separates those who do it from those who think they'd like to do it. That your witness to the universe can't be duplicated, that only you can provide it, and that it's worth providing."

Boston Globe, 1990


"I think I felt I could understand the animosity and hatred which an Islamic believer would have for our system. Nobody's trying to see it from that point of view. I guess I have stuck my neck out here in a number of ways, but that's what writers are for, maybe."

"[For the novel's protagonist] I imagined a young seminarian who sees everyone around him as a devil trying to take away his faith. The 21st Century does look like that, I think, to a great many people in the Arab world."

New York Times, 2006


"I think that maybe what young writers have lost is the sense of writing as a trade. When I was young it was still a trade.

"There were enough magazines - middlebrow magazines, so-called general interest magazines - they ran articles but also fiction, and you felt that there was an appetite out there for this sort of fiction. The academic publications run fiction, but I don't think they have quite replaced them in this sense.

"Fiction is in danger of becoming a kind of poetry."

Academy of Achievement, 2004


"The Centaur has a lot of me in it, a lot of my boyhood... I would also hope the Rabbit books will do well in the posterity sweepstakes.

"What seems to sell books is good word-of-mouth. I'm too old to believe that media promotion of a book really matters. What matters is how it will look 100 years from now, not how many copies are sold."

Wall Street Journal, 2005

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