By Brian Williams, Anchor and managing editor
John Updike has died. We'll remember him on the broadcast tonight, but already one of the interesting things I've heard said about him was an old quote from Norman Mailer, who, along with Philip Roth, was a member of Updike's "graduating class" of American novelists--all three men never missed an opportunity to stress their manliness. Mailer said Updike was "the kind of author appreciated by readers who knew nothing about writing." Faint praise?
Word of Updike's death, from lung cancer at the age of 76, brought all kinds of praise for the author today. I found the word "erudite" in the first two obituaries I read this afternoon. Updike was a member of our national upper crust--Harvard and tweed blazers--but was fascinated by the American middle class of the nylon jacket, and the post-War America that gave rise to their lives.
The Associated Press remembers him as the "tall" and "hawk-nosed" author who was "prolific, even compulsive" about releasing new works. He was a two-time Pulitzer winner for his "Rabbit" series, and as long as I live I could identify, from a great distance, the stripes on the dust jacket of "Rabbit Redux," which was considered the least of the series in terms of literary value. I remember the artwork on the binding of the book because it sat on the shelf of our living room when I was growing up. Updike had a similar presence in millions of American homes and lives.