Tuesday, January 27, 2009

John Updike Passes

I was sad to read about John Updike's death today.

I first heard of it in an email from a friend who was also upset. He wrote, "Oh man, John Updike died."

I think that expressed my state of mind. Genuine regret, but not real pain. I did not know the man, after all.

Here's what I'm wondering though: Why are we sad when notable, great people pass away?

Updike is a great writer. I have enjoyed his work in the past, but I am nowhere close to having read all of his material. So, I know I'm not upset because he won't be producing new pieces. It's not a personal loss. There seems to just be some general sense of sadness that passes through us all when a larger-than-life figure leaves us.

John Updike on Charlie Rose. Updike interview starts 22:59.


Michael said...

I've read a number of his novels, and can say that I'm upset at the fact that he won't be writing anything in the future. But to your question, I wonder if it's as simple as recognizing the person's genius and sensing the void that their abscence will leave?

Jessica Knapp said...

Yes, it's something like that. Just the general sense that we've all collectively lost something great ... that's their voice is gone, the place they occupied is empty.

I can understand your position, too. There are certainly authors whose next book I eagerly await. If they were to pass away, I would feel like I was missing out on potential art.

risaden said...

For me, it has to do with having a "personal" relationship with an artist, a sense of intimacy. I have read Updike and enjoy his writing, but have never experienced that personal sense of his presence, hence no "personal loss". On the other hand, I still feel sadness and loss when I think about John Lennon or Carson McCullers, for example.

Jessica Knapp said...

Yes, an excellent point risaden. We can feel a personal relationship to artists through their work. And even though we don't know them in actual life, I can see where a sense of loss would be born out of that.

Without sounding too much like the English major I was :), what's more personal than the way you respond to a book? Or a song? Or a movie?