Page last updated at 11:44 GMT, Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Baddiel: 'Updike was my Elvis'

John Updike
Updike wrote about 50 books over half a century
Comedian and author David Baddiel has paid tribute to acclaimed US novelist John Updike, who has died of lung cancer at the age of 76.

His extraordinary rendition of the ordinary is the key. There was a phrase he used, that his project in writing was 'to give the mundane its beautiful due' and that's really why I love John Updike.

John Updike can make someone chopping up lettuce into the most extraordinary, evocative, poetic, resonant experience and thus he doesn't have to do much in terms of plot or, as he says, the fantastic.

He doesn't even need to think that hard about what his characters do. All they need to do is just be, in a normal way, and possibly have an affair, and all of life is there.

He's very similar to Jane Austen in that respect. It's a very small canvas he writes on but everything is in there.

He is who I always aspire to get close to, however far away I might always be

He teemed with writing because, as well as the novels, there are huge collections of essays and poetry and plays.

To be honest, towards the end of his life he probably should have slowed down a bit. His last novel, The Widows of Eastwick, showed signs of him falling away from his incredibly high standards.

But I think, for him, writing really was life probably beyond family, beyond everything else. There are maybe all sorts of things that John Updike didn't experience as a person because he was so committed to writing.

But for me as a reader, I am pleased about that.

Massive influence

He had an enormous effect on me and I'm very sad that he has died. Frank Skinner, in his autobiography, talks about how upset personally he was when Elvis died and I feel it's a bit like that for me.

I mean, he's a very different character from Elvis but it was Frank Skinner who rang me and said 'Dave, John Updike...' and I knew straight away that Updike was dead.

I do feel, in a slightly pathetic way having never met the man, that I am bereft.

He was a massive influence on me and, as a writer, he is who I always aspire to get close to, however far away I might always be.

He was my Elvis.

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