I was a little shocked to hear on the radio just now that John Updike has died. I had no idea he was ill. I should confess up front that I'm indulging in name-dropping by blogging about his passing, since I was never a fan of his until I got the opportunity to interview him a couple of years ago. The brush with celebrity was a lot more fun than I want to admit, and he was very gracious, the perfect interview subject. He had interesting things to say, not least about himself, and he is the only person I've ever encountered who actually spoke in complete, perfectly composed sentences. I was so charmed by him that my editor took to ribbing me by referring to him as "the charming Mr. Updike." But he was charming.**
In spite of my crush on him, I never have managed to develop a great love for his work. I admire some of the short stories, but most of his fiction is not for me, nor is his poetry. Maybe my opinion will change someday--it's happened before. I know I need to read In the Beauty of the Lilies, even if I never give anything else of his another shot. Right now, if you asked me to pick a favorite Updike book, I'd choose one of his collections of art criticism: Just Looking and Still Looking. He writes about art with an unpretentious enthusiasm that makes you wish you could wander through a gallery with him--and then go to lunch and listen to him talk about it in his ever-so-charming way.
**Oh, I should have said our interview was done by phone. His voice alone was enough to sway me--that's how damn charming he was.