Updike Remembered

Reflections on the passing of John Updike abound this week, and here’s a smattering of some noteworthy eulogies.

Granta collects the thoughts of literary heavy-hitters, including Edmund White, Jennifer Egan, and the ever-elegiac Garrison Keillor, who writes, “He was an uncomplaining writer, a genius but also a workman, and he seemed to pick up energy in his last decade, which is encouraging to the rest of us. The Centaur is still my favourite of his books, a work of filial devotion, with the Olinger stories a close second. God bless his memory.”

Not to be outdone, The New Yorker presents its own star-studded list with Richard Ford, Joyce Carol Oates, and Jeffery Eugenides, who offers these words: “When a writer dies, a vote comes in. It usually takes a while, but not in this case. Updike’s death has revealed how many people, how many different kinds of people, felt a strong connection to his work. He was our great American writer. There won’t be another like him. How fortunate we were, and how lucky he was, to have come along in our democracy at the time he did. “

And from Harper’s: “His reviews were generous, but not in the sense that he regularly mollycoddled mediocrity. He tried to take at books on the terms they set for themselves, then tried to evaluate how well they managed on those terms, then looked at whether those terms were themselves adequate, useful, or beautiful. This habit of mind alone is unusual in the practice of long form literary criticism, which in lesser hands attached to meaner minds devolves into a sport of knaves. “What can one say, critically, about a critic without seeming hypercritical?” asked Updike in his assessment of Cyril Connolly. Of Updike the critic I can say: he will be missed.”

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Katia Bachko is on staff at The New Yorker.