"I remember I was sitting among my abandoned children watching television when Nixon resigned. My wife was out on a date, and had asked me to babysit. We had been separated since June. This was, of course, August. Nixon, with his bulgy face and his menacing, slipped-cog manner, seemed about to cry. The children and I had never seen a president resign before; nobody in the history of the United States had ever seen that."
He will no doubt be best remembered for The Rabbit Tetralogy, four great novels published at intervals of ten years, give or take a year, from 1960, which follow the life and times of Harry 'Rabbit' Angstrom from youth to decline. These are the stories which won him the reputation of the man who kicked open the American bedroom door, and indeed, marriage, sex, divorce and adultery were high on his list of concerns, but so were feminism, the Vietnam war and much else. He painted his interiors, though, on a small canvas as the writing had that quality of beauty which made plot slightly peripheral. It is the writing you remember when you read him. But small canvas or not, as they used to say of The News of the World newspaper, "the whole of human life" was there.
His oeuvre was large, though; a dozen or so collections of poetry, plays, works of non-fiction and short stories. He was awarded almost every literary prize (some more than once) except the Nobel. Will his tetralogy prove to be the Great American Novel? Not for anyone on this side of the pond to say, but to finish with a cliche (which he would never have done), he will be sorely missed.