Page last updated at 12:52 GMT, Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Tributes paid to 'great' Updike


Remembering Updike: Ian McEwan

Authors Ian McEwan and Martin Amis have led tributes to US novelist John Updike, who has died at the age of 76.

McEwan, author of Atonement and On Chesil Beach, described Updike as "the greatest novelist writing in English at the time of his death".

Writing in The Guardian, Amis said Updike was "one of the great American novelists of the 20th Century".

Updike, who had lung cancer, won the Pulitzer Prize twice during a career that spanned 50 years.

He chronicled sex, divorce and other aspects of life in post-war America in his works.

John Updike
Rabbit, Run, 1960
Couples, 1968
Rabbit Redux, 1971
The Witches of Eastwick, 1984
Memories of the Ford Administration, 1992

He once told an interviewer that his subject was "the American small town, Protestant middle class".

The publication of his book Rabbit, Run, in 1960, established Updike as one of the greatest novelists of his age. It introduced his most enduring character, Harold "Rabbit" Angstrom, and spawned a number of sequels.

McEwan added: "He showed us, like 19th Century writers, that it was possible to be a serious writer and a popular writer.

"Many of his figures are men of the street - Rabbit's quite a lowlife character, not an intellectual.

"The great trick with Updike was to somehow give you the world through the fine mesh of a brilliant mind - ie Updike's - but let the reader live all that through a rather uneducated man."

Amis, author of London Fields and Time's Arrow, said Updike's death represented "a very cold day for literature".

Philip Roth, the Pulitzer Prize-winning US novelist, also paid tribute in The Times.

He said Updike was "our time's greatest man of letters, as brilliant a literary critic and essayist as he was a novelist and short story writer".

He added: "He is, and always will be, no less a national treasure than his 19th Century precursor, Nathaniel Hawthorne. His death constitutes a loss to our literature that is immeasurable."

US author Richard Ford said: "He's a person who dedicated his life to writing, who wasn't a teacher and, most importantly, wrote very serious books that a lot of people read."

'Beautiful prose'

Writer Joyce Carol Oates, a friend of Updike's, said there was a "luminosity in John's style that was just extraordinary".

"He also had a wonderful, warm, sympathetic sense of humour which people didn't always notice."

Erica Wagner, writing in The Times, said Updike's "beautiful prose" was "always a caress" and that caress was "never merely physical."

People of the future who wish to understand the attitudes of Middle America in the 20th Century will find his work invaluable.
Tom, The Mearns

The son of a schoolmaster, Updike was born in Pennsylvania in 1932 and, after attending Harvard, spent a year as an art student in Oxford in the UK.

Later he joined the staff of the New Yorker magazine, to which he contributed numerous poems, essays and short stories.

His debut novel, The Poorhouse Fair, was published in 1959, with Rabbit, Run following a year later.

Updike also wrote The Witches of Eastwick in 1984, which was made into a film starring Jack Nicholson, Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer and Susan Sarandon.

Updike died in a hospice near his home in Beverly Farms, Massachussetts, his publisher said.

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