John Updike, whom Christopher Lehmann-Haupt of the NYT dubbed (here) a "kaleidoscopically gifted writer," has died of lung cancer at the young age of 76.
This one is hard for me to take, for Updike has seen me through all the various stages of my life from college through the current time. We read Updike in every religion-and-literature course I ever took. And I personally enjoyed reading him very much: Especially his "Rabbit" novels were theological treatises on the human condition. But even his less worthy ones (IMHO) were similarly illuminating and challenging. (I have to laugh, however, when I think that he earned a lifetime achievement award from Britain's Worst Sex Writing in Fiction awards committee. I never learned how he felt about that!)
Raised as a Lutheran, he was, I think, a pretty serious Christian all his life, ending his days as a Congregationalist, I understand. (Given where he lived most of his years, that's not too surprising, I suppose.) His roots were enough (so the story goes) that a Lutheran seminary in this country invited him to be the commencement speaker one year. Apparently, Updike suffered some from a stammer or stutter. In any event, he replied with a terse telegram: Thank you, but no. I am a writer not a speaker.
His writing spoke to me and to countless others through his illustrious career. And we should all mourn the passing of a serious and talented writer. (Feel free to comment on your favorite or least favorite Updike classic.)
May his memory be eternal. And may the Lord grant him eternal rest and let perpetual light shine upon him.