Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Run, Rabbit, Run

Updike headed out for the stars today!
by Charlie Leck

John Updike died today. So long, fellow. There are a lot of reasons I liked this writer so much. He tended to write about very ordinary people. He wasn't hell bent for adventure or excitement. He just told a good story and he told it as well as it could be told. His writing was gentle, easy to read and purely smooth.

His obituary appeared today on the front page of the NY Times.

His Rabbit books were, of course, so extraordinary; however, when I think of Updike's wonderful writing style, I always think about Of the Farm. I think this simple, beautiful novella is my favorite of all his works.

"All afternoon the signs of a storm gathered. The translucent clouds developed opaque bellies and were hurried sideways by a rising wind. From my stately tractor I admired, what I had forgotten, how dramatic the clouds in this hill country could be. Diagonal shafts of sun and shadow and vapor steamed earth-ward from glowing citadels of cumulus spaced as if strategically across the illusory continent above; the spectacle was on the high grand scale of history, so that the elidings an eclipsings and combinings of cloud-types suggested political situations -- wispy cirrus playing the aristocrat, a demagogic thunderhead moving against a parliament of mackerel sky."
[Updike, John: Of the Farm (Alfred Knopf, New York, 19650]
I read this book with a great, talented poet. We took a bachelor weekend and went to an old farm house he had arranged up in the north. It was quiet and peaceful and regenerating. We cooked some good food, drank some good wine and found out about sweet martinis. And, we read Updike. It was easy to work our way through Of the Farm. We hadn't expected it to be so good.

My friend kept calling across the room.

"Listen to this," he'd say, and begin reading several sentences that had struck him more as poetry than prose. "Wow! Can he write, or what?"

So long, John. Rest so well. Enjoy the stars!
“The miracle of turning inklings into thoughts and thoughts into words and words into metal and print and ink never palls for me.” (John Updike)

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