Several years ago I was part of a usability test for a database (can't remember which one.) As compensation, I got $50 in cold hard cash. So I immediately bought a handsome hard-bound edition of John Updike's early short stories, which consumed most of the proceeds.
A few years later I bought the quartet of his Rabbit novels and read them all cover to cover. After that I saw Updike at a reading in New York City, and he signed the Rabbits. At the exact moment I reached him in line some kind of alarm went off in the building, and Updike became perturbed. I thought that was hilarious.
John Updike died on Tuesday, at the age of 76. Posthumously I learned that he had the same birthday as me--March 18. And he has a personality mix I appreciate as well: strong cosmopolitanism (he spent years writing for the New Yorker) while never forgetting that there's a rich life taking place out there in "middle America."
As he put it, "When I write, I aim in my mind not toward New York but toward a vague spot a little to the east of Kansas. I think of the books on library shelves, without their jackets, years old, and a countryish teenaged boy finding them, have them speak to him."
The Guardian has comprehensive coverage of Updike's life and times, for those so inclined. I just want to finish with those early short stories, most of which I've never read.