Claims to fame
January 28, 2009, 3:44 pm
Filed under: Books, Current Events | Tags: ,

John Updike died yesterday.

He is my hometown’s claim to fame. If you read his obituaries closely enough, you will be able to learn where I was born and raised. In fact, my parents live about 3 blocks away from the house he grew up in, and my grandmother and he went to the same high school.

Many of his short stories take place in that small borough, and reading them is like going home. His Rabbit books take place in the greater metropolitan area, but home nonetheless.

In fact, my mother’s family’s now-defunct candy business was mentioned by name in the book. My family is forever immortalized in history! If that business hadn’t caused a massive family feud in my grandfather’s generation that resulted in my grandfather being disowned when my mother was 16 and never speaking to his father or brother again, I would consider ripping that page out of a copy and having it framed for them. We don’t mention the candy business because my grandfather gets this look on his face that is a cross between a constipated goat and a sloth giving birth. I can only assume what realizing that the business is preserved in the TOME of ENGLISH LITERATURE (by an author known for explicit, awkward sex scenes, no less) would do to him.

I discovered John Updike as more than a name I heard in passing during my freshman year in college, at a particularly homesick moment. In fact, his Rabbit books were the first ones I checked out of Pitt’s library. Reading him was like going home. Reading his short stories later even more so.

I had heard rumors that he kept in contact with childhood friends in Shillington and would periodically visit them. An ex of mine met him once, as a small boy, when Updike was sitting on his neighbor’s front porch. Only later did that moment gain any note in his mind. I have held out hope that I might see him strolling down my street when I happen to be home, but such is life: that will not happen.

In the meantime, I will occasionally dive back into his detailed, yet stark prose when I need to visit my childhood.


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