Architectural Digest Remembers John Updike

updike AD.jpgShort stories, novels, art criticism, book reviews, an odd little roman à clef written from the perspective of Lee Krasner: the writerly talents of John Updike knew no bounds. Architectural Digest is remembering the literary legend, who died on Tuesday at the age of 76, through a series of articles that he contributed to the magazine over the years. Now featured on the AD website are four of Updike’s “Guest Speaker” pieces, in which he remembers the towns and houses in which he—and the characters he created—lived. “Architecture confines and defines us,” wrote Updike in “Fictional Houses,” published in the January 1985 issue of AD. “Our human world speaks to us, most massively, in its buildings, and a fiction writer cannot make his characters move until he has some imaginative grasp of their environment.”

Nearly 30 years later I can still feel the thrill of power with which, in my first novel, The Poorhouse Fair, I set characters roaming the corridors of an immense imaginary mansion I had based upon an institutional building for the poor and homeless, which had stood at the end of the street where my family had lived in Pennsylvania, but that I had never once, as a child, dared enter. Now, as an author, I climbed even to the cupola, and chased a parakeet down long halls, “channels of wood and plaster” where a crossing made “four staring corners sharp as knives.”