John Updike, 1932-2009

Celebrated author John Updike has died of lung cancer. He was 76 years old. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the Rabbit series was also an accomplished essayist and literary critic.

His publisher, Knopf, sent out the following memo today:

It is with great sadness that I report that John Updike died this morning at the age of 76, after a battle with lung cancer.

John was one of our greatest writers. He was a part of the Knopf family for over fifty years. We will all miss him terribly.

Updike traded chiefly in a kind of suburban rumble—much of his work dealt (quite frankly at times) with sexuality and, frequently, the spiderwebbing effects of adultery. Best known for his Rabbit series (from Rabbit, Run to Rabbit Remembered), Updike was also the author of the Bech series, The Witches of Eastwick (he just recently published a sequel, The Widows of Eastwick), many other novels including In the Beauty of the Lillies, and several works of poetry and non-fiction.

One of my favorite stories of his is the quiet, moment-in-a-life "A & P", about an adolescent boy and the woman who briefly fascinates him. Updike was one of the masters of modern American yearning, the predecessor (and, because of his prolificacy, the contemporary) of the likes of Tom Perrotta and other explorers of our darker, leafier corners.

He also had a hilarious cameo on The Simpsons once, as the ghost writer of Krusty the Klown's autobiography. So, basically, a hero.

He leaves behind four children and his second wife, Martha.