John Updike was for me a little like an old friend you keep meaning to visit but never quite get around to visiting. Years ago, I read several of his Rabbit novels, and I occasionally read his short stories later on. But in the last decade or so, my contact with his writing has been limited to his art reviews in the New York Review and occasional book reviews.
When I was a teenager in the early 1970s, one would often see Rabbit, Run and perhaps Rabbit Redux on the bookshelves at friends’ houses, next to a lava lamp and a copy of The Happy Hooker. I think it is in part due to my deep ambivalence about that era that I’ve always preferred Updike’s predecessor as the bard of American suburbia, John Cheever.
But Updike’s eye for detail, and the beauty of his sentences, surely justify his reputation as one of the great twentieth century American novelists. And the world he captured was, in all of its confusion, the world that many of us or our parents lived.
I’d be interested to hear others’ views of Updike, of favorite Updike writings, or of his significance as a writer and critic.