As is customary around this time of year, let's take a post and say a fond literary farewell to these brilliant writers we lost in 2009.
1) John Updike -- "Shut up, Updike," grunts Krusty the Klown in a 2000 Simpsons episode. Cartoon Updike is giggling at Krusty's "misfortune" at being reunited with his long-lost daughter. Rare is the literary novelist with such mainstream crossover appeal, but Updike was as popular as he was ubiquitous. A memoirist, critic, prolific novelist and short story writer, and literary feuder, he was as close to a literary celebrity as our reality-show soaked culture will allow. Updike is probably best know for his quartet of Rabbit Angstrom novels, the first two of which (Rabbit, Run and Rabbit Redux) are the only two Updike novels I've actually read. I did enjoy them, though, and have promised myself to one day soon finish the Rabbit series. Updike died of lung cancer on January 27. He was 76 years old.
2) Frank McCourt -- I feel a little guilty that McCourt's death was the motivation I finally needed to read his wonderfully brilliant memoir Angela's Ashes. His sobering tale of his impoverished Irish childhood, complete with alcoholic father, stunned critics and book clubs alike when it was published in 1996. It's a sad book, indeed, but infused with humor and Irish wit, as well. I loved it! He published a sequel to Angela's Ashes titled 'Tis about his young manhood in NYC, and another memoir about his experiences teaching in NYC public schools titled Teacher Man. He died July 19 of melanoma with meningeal complications. He was 78 years old.
3) Jim Carroll -- Most folks are more familiar with Carroll's famous work The Basketball Diaries because of Leonardo DiCaprio's role as Carroll in the movie version of the book. But the book is fantastic -- it's a coming of age tale that reads like a much racier version of The Catcher in the Rye. Carroll's autobiography chronicles his descent into drug addiction on the streets of NYC in the mid '60s. I read the book for a literature survey class in college and have been slightly haunted by it ever since. It's terrifying. Carroll, who also wrote poetry and composed music, died September 11 of a heart attack. He was 60 years old.
4) E. Lynn Harris -- Frankly, I'm not real familiar with Harris's work, but judging from the news stories about him after he died, he had a small but very loyal following, especially in the gay community. His novels depicted black men struggling to come to terms with their closeted homosexuality. He published 15 books, including novels, short story collections and memoirs. He died June 20 of heart disease. He was 54 years old.
5) Dominick Dunne -- Dunne is another writer I haven't read. He was actually a novelist, movie producer, TV personality, investigative reporter and writer for Vanity Fair. His novels were generally centered on real-world crimes and punishments. He died August 26 of bladder cancer. He was 83 years old.
What are your reactions to any of these brilliant writers? Has their deaths changed your level of appreciation for their work?