Remembering John Updike

Rabbit Requiescat


John Updike was the first person to make me laugh. I don’t remember this, but I have it on good authority: My father, who was his classmate at college, just sent me this sketch of the scene. The place was Cambridge, Mass.; the year was 1959:

“One day for some reason John came to see us alone, in the early afternoon. We were in our living room, which was flooded by the afternoon sun. You were in your Easy Chair, a contraption in universal use then among advanced couples, which allowed the pre-toddler to recline rather as though he were in a barber’s chair having his hair shampooed. One of John’s less-known talents was his skill as a juggler. He took three oranges from a bowl on the coffee table and began to juggle for you, and you began to laugh. Astonishing belly laughter.”


John Updike Loved New York


John Updike realized New York City was too small for him shortly after his second child was born. The family’s two-room apartment on West 13th Street just wasn’t going to cut it, he realized, and so, in a fit of what he would later call inspiration, he picked up and moved to Ipswich, Mass. He’d been working at The New Yorker for two years at this point, writing for Talk of the Town. It was fun, but he was sick of being in a place so full of other writers and wanted out of the “seductive hurley-burley,” as he put it to The New York Times’ Charles McGrath late last year.


Rabbit at the Royalton


I interviewed him for Tina Brown’s Vanity Fair over coffee in the lobby of the Royalton, in August 1990. He was in town to push a book, of course—he always had a book to push! I forget which. It was the height of Vanity Fair and of the Royalton as the company cafeteria, and my idea in taking Updike there was to create an interesting juxtaposition of the old world of literary Manhattan (The New Yorker was still in its original offices then, just a few doors down 44th Street) and the Brave New World of Steven Meisel and Herb Ritts and Madonna and Tina and the Royalton.

Remembering John Updike