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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

John Updike, 1932-2009

I ate my sandwich, brewed a cup of tea, returned to my desk, and loaded up the New York Times. The first thing I saw was a photo of John Updike, with his typical air of worldly amusement. I started to smile, thinking there'd be an article or interview I could read before snugging back down to work. Then I read the headline and spilled my tea. Updike is dead.

I'm shocked by how shocked I am. People call Naipaul the greatest living writer of English prose. If by "English" you mean "in the English language", then for my money that was Updike. Until today.

He once famously remarked of Nabokov that he "writes prose the only way it should be written, that is, ecstatically," which of course is just the way Updike himself wrote.

I almost never sit down before my laptop to write something--anything--without remembering a line from Updike's foreword to Hugging the Shore. The writer begins, he said, by "taking a deep breath, leaning out over the typewriter, and trying to dive a little deeper than the first words that come to mind."

I read the Times headline and the first word that came to mind was "No".

1 comment:

Leonard said...

No....You must be kidding. Oh, today...