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John Updike, Chronicler of Small-Town America, Dies at 76

John Updike, the kaleidoscopically gifted writer whose quartet of Rabbit novels highlighted a body of fiction, verse, essays and criticism so vast, protean and lyrical as to place him in the first rank of American authors, died on Tuesday in Danvers, Mass. He was 76 and lived in Beverly Farms, Mass.

The cause was cancer, according to a statement by Knopf, his publisher. A spokesman said Updike had died at the Hospice of the North Shore in Danvers.

Of Updike’s dozens of books, perhaps none captured the imagination of the book-reading public more than those about ordinary citizens in small-town and urban settings. His best-known protagonist, Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, first appears as a former high-school basketball star trapped in a loveless marriage and a sales job he hates. Through the four novels whose titles bear his nickname — “Rabbit, Run,” “Rabbit Redux,” “Rabbit Is Rich” and “Rabbit at Rest” — the author traces the funny, restless and questing life of this middle-American against the background of the last half-century’s major events.

Philip Roth said Tuesday: “John Updike is our time’s greatest man of letters, as brilliant a literary critic and essayist as he was a novelist and short story writer. He is and always will be no less a national treasure than his 19th-century precursor, Nathaniel Hawthorne. His death constitutes a loss to our literature that is immeasurable.”

John Hoyer Updike was born on March 18, 1932, in Reading, Pa., and grew up in the nearby town of Shillington. He was the only child of Wesley Russell Updike, a junior-high-school math teacher of German descent, and Linda Grace (Hoyer) Updike, who later also published fiction in The New Yorker and elsewhere.

Geithner Sets Limits on Lobbying For Bailout Funds

The new Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, announced Tuesday that he would crack down on lobbying to influence the $700 billion financial bailout program by companies that are receiving billions in taxpayer funds.

Among other steps, the Treasury Department said it would make public a log of all contacts by public officials and bank officials regarding specific financial institutions. The log will be posted on the department’s Web site and updated weekly, it said.

Eugene Volokh, a constitutional law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, said there was no legal impediment to barring Treasury officials from talking about specific matters with lobbyists, although the First Amendment would not permit the government to forbid people from trying to lobby it.

Dissidents at FDA Complain of Inquiry

Nine dissident scientists at the Food and Drug Administration sent a letter to President Barack Obama on Monday stating that agency officials may have started a criminal investigation into their complaints that agency officials forced them to approve medical devices inappropriately.

“It has been brought to our attention that FDA management may have just recently ordered the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations (OCI) to investigate us rather than the managers who have engaged in wrongdoing!” states the letter, which was provided to The New York Times. “It is an outrage that our own agency would step up the retaliation to such a level because we have reported their wrongdoing to the United States Congress.”

Heidi Rebello, an FDA spokeswoman, said she could neither confirm nor deny the existence of a criminal investigation.