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Remembering John Updike, Master Of Fiction


Nobody put together words more lucidly, dreamily or sharply than John Updike. He died this week at the age of 76 after writing more than 22 novels, poems, short stories, essays and critiques. I'll miss the three or five more novels I'm sure he might have written, as even into old age he continued to grow and challenge himself.

Here are the opening lines from his 1960 novel, "Rabbit, Run."

(Reading) Boys are playing basketball around a telephone pole with the backboard bolted to it. Legs. Shouts. The scrape and snap of Keds on loose alley pebbles seem to catapult their voices high into the moist, March air, blue above the wires. Rabbit Angstrom, coming up the alley in a business suit, stops and watches. The ball leaps over the heads of the six and lands at his feet. He catches it on the short bounce with a quickness that startles them. As they stare, hushed, he sets his feet with care, wiggling the ball with nervousness in front of his chest. The cuticle moons on his fingernails are big, and the ball seems to ride up the right lapel of his coat and comes off his shoulder. As his knees dip down, it appears the ball will miss because he shot it from an angle. But the ball isn't going toward the backboard. It wasn't aimed there. But it drops into the circle of the rim, whipping the net with a ladylike whisper. "Hey!" he shouts in pride. "Luck," says one of the kids.

(Soundbite of music)

SIMON: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.