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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Rabbit at Rest

One of my greatest literary influences has always been my father. I can imagine that I once believed he arrived in this world fully formed as 'my father the lawyer', a man who made my sack lunches for school in jeans every morning and arrived home in a suit with his briefcase every evening. But of course my father had been living his life long before my sister and I made our entrance, and in that life my father was passionate about writing.

I became aware of myself as a writer long before I knew that he was a writer. I can recall one afternoon, though I don't remember the impetus, during which my father brought out his writing to show me. Thin pages, more than a decade old, punched with the dark ink from a typewriter. That day I finally knew. My dad is a poet.

As far as I know, my father no longer writes, but his literary passions remain, passions we often share and discuss. He has long admired the great American writers, namely Ernest Hemingway, but often he has encouraged me to read John Updike, calling me into a room with him just so he could read a passage aloud, sharing some small snippet of the tales of Updike's most famous character, Rabbit.

So it is through my father that I feel the loss of John Updike who passed today at the age of 76. He was one of America's great writers, and though he was prolific over his lifetime, it still feels too young too soon to lose so great a talent.

You may think to yourself that you've never heard of him, or simply never encountered his writing, but that is likely not so. Updike was near omnipresent in literary circles, a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books and The New Yorker. The New York Times obituary provides an extensive review of his life and work.

I regret that I haven't read one of John Updike's novels during his lifetime, but I know I will enjoy one during mine, and certainly during my father's.


Andi said...

Though I've had internal quibbles with Updike over his writing, it's still a huge loss for the literary community. I appreciate him even if I haven't always liked him.

Thanks for sharing about your father. What a touching piece of writing.

Anonymous said...

Updike can be hard for women. He remains a strong, unshakable voice that captures a particular moment in the American male psyche that had never been before and will never be again. Pairing him with Kerouac or Roth is an interesting exercise for the brain (though of the three I find Updike to be the most eloquent).

This is perhaps my favorite post of yours. Lovely writing, beautiful thoughts. Seems that runs in your family.