American literary great John Updike has died at age 76. We look at the tributes to his life and works, and dip into his writing and interviews.

Obituaries and tributes

John Updike, author, dies at 76. John Updike, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, prolific man of letters and erudite chronicler of sex, divorce and other adventures in the postwar prime of the American empire, died Tuesday at age 76. — New York Times

Writer John Updike kicked down the door of American bedrooms. His passing causes one to ask: so who, now, is the Great American Novelist if we discount those of his peer group who are with us still? Does the definition still apply? Time can only tell. — Erica Wagner, The Times

John Updike, literary heavyweight. The crown of “greatness” never sat easily on the snowcapped head of John Updike, one of the great writers of the 20th century who died from lung cancer on Tuesday at the age of 76. — Lev Grossman, TIME

The many stylings of John Updike. The knock on Updike was that he had a gorgeous prose style and not much to say with it. When it came to his fiction, I tended to agree. It wasn’t that his novels were bad — just that they didn’t speak to me. His nonfiction was something else. My reaction to his literary criticism was pure professional jealousy. My reaction to his other nonfiction work was simply admiration and, in at least one case, outright adoration. — Malcolm Jones, Newsweek

Remembering Updike. Tributes from Julian Barnes, Antonya Nelson, George Saunders, and others. — The New Yorker


Showing ordinary life as being worth writing about. “The trick about fiction, as I see it, is to make an unadventurous circumstance seem adventurous, to make it excite the reader, either with its truth or with the fact that there’s always a little more that goes on, and there’s multiple levels of reality. As we walk through even a boring day, we see an awful lot and feel an awful lot. To try to say some of that seems more worthy than cooking up thrillers.” — Academy of Achievement, 2004

As close as you can get to the stars. “Why do I keep writing about these phallocentric guys like Rabbit Angstrom? I’ve written a couple of books involving women, and really the hero of “Lilies” is female. She’s the one who really reverses the family’s destinies and gets to the stars, or as close as you can get to the stars in this life.” — Salon, 2008

In his own words. “I began with fairly crass ambitions. I knew there were writers who wore tweed coats and lived in Connecticut and somehow made a living, and that’s what I aimed to do. I’ve tried to write as well as I can with books that say something to any reader.” — Wall Street Journal, 2005

A conversation with John Updike, New York Times:

In his own words: Updike’s writing

New York Review of Books archive

New Yorker archive

Testing the limits of what I know and feel. At the age of 73, I seem most instinctively to believe in the human value of creative writing, whether in the form of verse or fiction, as a mode of truth-telling, self-expression and homage to the twin miracles of creation and consciousness. — NPR

Late works. Works written late in a writer’s life retain a fascination. They exist, as do last words, where life edges into death, and perhaps have something uncanny to tell us. — New Yorker

Hub fans bid kid adieu. Fenway Park, in Boston, is a lyric little bandbox of a ballpark. Everything is painted green and seems in curiously sharp focus, like the inside of an old-fashioned peeping-type Easter egg. — Baseball Almanac

And also…

John Updike: Life in pictures — BBC

John Updike: A life in quotes — Telegraph