John Updike, the prolific author “whose novels and short stories exposed an undercurrent of ambivalence and disappointment in small-town, middle-class America,” said Mary Rourke in the Los Angeles Times, died on Tuesday at the age of 76. Perhaps best known for his series of Rabbit novels and The Witches of Eastwick, Updike’s successful writing career spanned half a century.
“Updike's range was enormous,” said Dan Cryer in Newsday. He wrote more than 50 books—“as often bestsellers as critics' darlings”—including novels, memoirs, children's books and collections of stories, poems, essays and criticism. And nearly every big prize came his way: He won two Pulitzers, two National Book Awards, four National Book Critics Circle Awards, and the Howells Medal from the American Academy and Letters.
John Updike was “endowed with an art student’s pictorial imagination, a journalist’s sociological eye and a poet’s gift for metaphor,” said Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times. He was “a literary decathlete in our age of electronic distraction and willful specialization, Victorian in his industriousness and almost blogger-like in his determination to turn every scrap of knowledge and experience into words.”
He was also a “divisive figure,” said Christopher Tayler in the Guardian, with some critics considering his work “absurdly over-prettified.” But there are also “numerous hints” sprinkled throughout Updike’s writing’s that suggest “something darker and more confused” behind his “beaming public countenance.” And perhaps that “will keep his work interestingly alive in the years to come.”