R.I.P, John Updike

January 28, 2009

John Updike

In early 2002, when Fast Horse was in its infancy, I closed the office for a couple hours and hauled the entire staff (Tony and Kobi back then) on a “field trip” to hear a speaker at a synagogue in the western suburbs. From time to time we’ve tried to branch beyond the usual stuff we experience during the work day and take in something that might inspire or challenge us, whether it’s a trip to the Walker or an agency outing to a new restaurant on Eat Street.  The visit to the synagogue was the first such “all-agency” affair. I’m not Jewish, but I can say it was a religious experience.  The speaker that day was none other than the greatest American writer of the past 50 years, John Updike.

I had become hooked on Updike in college, when I read “Roger’s Version,” which explored the relationship between religion and science. Ever since, he’s had a spot near the top of a long list of people whose intellect and worldview challenge and inspire me. One of my most treasured possessions is a signed copy of his autobiography, “Self-Consciousness,” which was given to me by my father as a college graduation present. The inscription reads: “For Jorg Pierach — Congratulations on your graduation.  All that’s left is life itself.  John Updike”

John Updike died of cancer yesterday at the age of 76. May he rest in peace.