03/05/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

John Updike's Editor Remembers Legendary Author

Colleagues for more than half a century, writer-editor partners for more than half that time, John Updike and I were close at a fixed distance--he at home north of Boston, I in my New Yorker office near Bryant Park--but spoke voluminously by telephone, by manuscripts and galley proofs, and also via his typed, cheerful two-and-a-half-by-five-and-a-half white postcards that bore his pale-blue name and address hand-stamped in the northwest corner. Now and then he would turn up at the office, startling me once again with his height and his tweeds, that major nose, and his bright eyes and up-bent smile; he spoke in a light half whisper and, near the end of each visit, somehow withdrew a little, growing more private and less visible even before he turned away. The fadeaway, as I came to think of it, may have had to do with his exile from his own writing that day, while travelling; the spacious writing part of him was held to one side when not engaged, kept ready for its engrossing daily stint back home. Informally august, he stayed young after his hair turned white, but the additions of fame and a vast work now made him seem Colonial, ready for the portrait on a postage stamp.

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