Sunday, March 18, 2012

Rabbit, remembered


Today is the birthday of one of my favorite writers, the late and great John Updike.

He was prolific in his day, writing 20 novels and a ton of pieces (short stories, criticism), mostly for The New Yorker. His best-known works were the "Rabbit" novels about, what else, a regular guy named Rabbit Angstrom.

Updike became and remained life-long friends with author John Cheever. Despite a rocky relationship at times, their fondness for one another was such that when Cheever was erroneously informed sometime in the mid-1970s by a reporter that Updike had died, he got out of bed, wept and wrote a moving tribute to his old friend.

Here is the complete episode of Updike and Cheever's joint appearance on Dick Cavett's PBS program in the early 1980s.

Updike by reputation remained a "regular guy" despite the fact he rose to the heights of American letters. He found early on he didn't like living in New York City and moved his family to Ipswich, Mass., near Boston.

Remembers Garrison Keillor in The Writer's Almanac:

"After his death of lung cancer in 2009, many of his neighbors remembered him as a down-to-earth fellow, a participant in several civic organizations, a guy in corduroy trousers who played regular poker with the boys."

Just before he died, I remarked to a friend after a Super Bowl party, "You know, I'd love to go to one of these things and, just once, hear someone discussing Updike short stories."

I'm still waiting.

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