I first discovered John Updike when we were living in Arden Park and his essays and stories are marvelous, touching a deep chord in me.
His work will be missed, but what he wrote will live on to enrapture us for a long time.
“John Updike, the bard of the suburbs, died this week. He was one of the first great American writers to revel in the opportunity, beauty and convenience that the suburbs have long reflected. His voice, first found in the sixties, acted as a reasonable anchor in the tempest of radicalism that swept through the country. He empathized with the American dream rising in the raw suburbs being carved from agricultural land.
“Where ancestors once had wrestled a living from the soil, Updike’s generation found comfort, convenience and a dream. They found plenty where a generation previous only found enough to keep them alive. At a time when academics, avant-garde filmmakers and urban intellectuals scoffed at suburbia, Updike explained it. He understood the obvious reasons – “practical attractions: free parking for my car, public education for my children, a beach to tan my skin on, a church to attend without seeming too strange”. That is still what draws people to the edge of town.
“Updike viewed the miles of identical houses the middle class aspired to as the pinnacle of civilization. He was never condescending. He genuinely loved what the suburbs represented and what they offered the masses moving from the cramped quarters of the ghettos and slums of the pre-war cities. He himself knew firsthand the other source of suburban migrants – the hardscrabble rural environs where life was often both difficult and limited.
“Updike wanted nothing more than the convenience and steady food and work that he could find in the suburbs of Boston. The cold, bleak, boring hell of rural life was not for him. He saw nature as something that his religious sensibilities told him it was: a chaotic force to be tamed for the benefit of man.”