Friday, February 06, 2009

Poignant Updike Remembrance

Published: February 4, 2009

To the Editor:

Re “John Updike, a Lyrical Writer of the Middle-Class Man, Dies at 76” (obituary, Jan. 28):

In the early autumn of 1975, when I was 30 years old and newly employed in Midtown Manhattan, I made my first visit to the venerable Gotham Book Mart on West 47th Street — slightly subterranean, somewhat disheveled, endlessly beguiling.
It was late afternoon, near closing time. As I was browsing, adjacent to the cashier’s desk, there was a telephone call, at the end of which the woman who had answered it said to her colleague, “Mr. Updike is coming in for his books.”
In response, the other, older, tweedier woman lifted and wrist-waggled a package, several volumes thick, wrapped up in brown paper.

I caught her eye, and she nodded and almost smiled, an acknowledgment, perhaps a welcome.

That store has disappeared; virtually all such stores have. And now, suddenly, Mr. Updike is gone, too — probably America’s last comprehensive man of letters.

Like so many others, I learned about his death almost as soon as it happened, wrapped up for all of us on Google News.

Martin Krasney
Sausalito, Calif.
Jan. 29, 2009