I love Updike. I've been reading him since I was in high school. When 9-11 hit publishing really hard,and I was unable to sell books for 8 months, I read Updike to make me feel that books were worth selling (and therefore publishing).
I can't believe he's gone, or that I won't be looking for a new book from him next year and the year after that, or picking up a copy of the New Yorker and seeing yet another of his stories.
I have all these great little Updike stories to share - and now fewer and fewer people will know who he was.
The first time I met Updike (I have been waiting decades to write that) was at the annual American Academy of Arts and Letters Awards on 155th Street in Manhattan, when I was the editor of a community newspaper there. He was in his late 50's. I was in my 20's. His hair was breath-takingly silver. It was the physical thing about him I remember most. I mumbled something about how much I loved his work, and he mumbled something back. It was insignificant to him, but just incredible to me that I was meeting him (I met Ralph Ellison that day too!)
Years later, one of my best friends married into a family where John Updike was invited to her engagement party. She said he and his wife gave a lousy gift.
I also remember that in spite of how pivotal Rabbit, Run was as a book in the 60's, it was considered one of the worst movies ever made (starring James Cain). When I became an agent, I was told that Updike books were on the never option list in Hollywood.
Years later, when Witches of Eastwick was made into a movie, I was told a story (by some film agent) that the only way it got made was for Updike to promise to keep his hands off of it. They changed the ending completely and made it a better movie.
I remember being blown away by a simple sentence in Witches of Eastwick where Updike described the clouds in the sky as looking like bacon fat.
I learned only a few years ago that one of the reasons Updike was able to be the decades-long literary success that he was was because his mother had written for The New Yorker, and given him that all-important "in."
And I often think of just how good a short story A&P is all these years after reading it.
Tell me your Updike stories - I'd love to share them with my blog readers.