John Hoyer Updike is an American writer born in Reading, Pennsylvania.
He lived in nearby Shillington until he was 13. Updike's most
famous works are his Rabbit series (Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux;
Rabbit Is Rich; Rabbit At Rest; and Rabbit Remembered). Rabbit
is Rich and Rabbit at Rest both won Pulitzer Prizes for Updike.
Describing his subject as "the American small town, Protestant
middle class", Updike is well known for his careful craftsmanship
and prolific writing, having published 22 novels and more than
a dozen short story collections as well as poetry, literary criticism
and children's books. Hundreds of his stories, reviews and poems
have appeared in The New Yorker since the 1950s. His works often
explore sex, faith, death, and their interrelationship.
As a child, Updike suffered from psoriasis and stammering, and
he was encouraged by his mother to write. Updike entered Harvard
University on a full scholarship. He served as president of the
Harvard Lampoon before graduating summa cum laude (he wrote a
thesis on George Herbert) in 1954 with a degree in English before
joining The New Yorker as a regular contributor.
1957, Updike left Manhattan and moved to Ipswich, Massachusetts,
which served as the model for the fictional New England town of
Tarbox in his 1968 novel, Couples. In 1959 he published a well-regarded
collection of short stories, The Same Door, which included both
"Who Made Yellow Roses Yellow?" and "A Trillion
Feet of Gas." Other classic stories include "A&P,"
"Pigeon Feathers," "The Alligators," and "Museums
favors realism and naturalism in his writing; for instance, the
opening of Rabbit, Run spans several pages describing a pick-up
basketball game in intricate detail. His writing typically focuses
on relationships between people; friends, married couples or extramarital
liasions. Couples and the Rabbit tetralogy particularly follow
this pattern. Through the four Rabbit books, the changing social,
political and economic history of America forms the background
to the Angstroms' marriage and acts occasionally as a commentary
on it - and vice versa.
occasion Updike abandons this setting, examples being The Witches
of Eastwick (1984, later made into a movie of the same name),
The Coup (1978, about a fictional Cold War era African dictatorship),
and in his 2000 postmodern novel Gertrude and Claudius (a prelude
to the story of Hamlet illuminating three versions of the legend
including William Shakespeare's).
important novels include The Centaur (National Book Award, 1963),
Couples (1968) and Roger's Version (1986). In addition to Harry
'Rabbit' Angstrom, a recurrent Updike alter-ego is the moderately
well-known, unprolific Jewish novelist Henry Bech who is chronicled
in three comic short story cycles, Bech: A Book (1970), Bech is
Back (1981) and Bech At Bay: A Quasi-Novel (1998).
stories involving the socially-conscious (and social-climbing)
couple "The Maples" are widely considered to be autobiographical,
and several were the basis for a television movie entitled Too
Far to Go starring Michael Moriarty and Blythe Danner which was
broadcast on NBC. Updike stated that he chose this surname for
the characters because he admired the beauty and resilience of
Updike has continued to publish at the rate of about a book a
year, critical opinion on his work since the early nineties has
been generally muted, and sometimes damning. Nevertheless, his
novelistic scope in recent years has been wide: retellings of
mythical stories (Tristan and Isolde in Brazil, 1994; a Hamlet
prequel in Gertrude and Claudius, 2000), generational saga (In
The Beauty of the Lilies, 1996) and science fiction (Toward the
End of Time, 1997). In Seek My Face (2002) he explored the post-war
art scene; in Villages (2004), Updike returns to the familiar
territory of infidelities in New England. His 22nd novel, Terrorist,
was published in June 2006.
large anthology of short stories from his formative career, titled
The Early Stories 1953–1975 (2003) won the 2004 PEN/Faulkner
Award for Fiction. He wrote that his intention with the form was
to "give the mundane its beautiful due."
is a well-known and practising critic (Assorted Prose 1965, Picked-Up
Pieces 1975, Hugging the Shore 1983, Odd Jobs 1991, More Matter
1999), and is often in the center of critical wars of words. In
retaliation for Updike's review of Tom Wolfe's novel A Man In
Full, Wolfe called him one of "my Three Stooges" (the
other two were John Irving and Norman Mailer). Updike has also
been involved in critical disputes with Gore Vidal and John Gardner,
authors renowned for their criticism of him and others.
has worked in a wide array of literary genres, including fiction,
poetry, essay, and memoir. His lone foray into drama, Buchannan
Dying: a play, apparently constituted something of a reversal,
since in a 1968 interview Updike claimed that "[t]he unreality
of painted people standing on a platform saying things they've
said to each other for months is more than I can overlook."
He further said: "From Twain to James and Faulkner to Bellow,
the history of novelists as playwrights is a sad one."
has four children and currently lives in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts
with his second wife, Martha. His new book is a collection of
essays on art, Still Looking (Knopf, 2005).
was the subject of a so-called "closed book examination"
by Nicholson Baker, entitled U and I (Random House, 1991).
has often been rumored to be among the front runners for the Nobel
Prize in Literature. In 1998 Updike received an L.D. from Bates
"[Rabbit] loves men, uncomplaining with their pot bellies
and cross-hatched red necks, embarrassed for what to talk about
when the game is over, whatever the game is. What a threadbare
thing we make of life! Yet what a marvelous thing the mind is,
they can't make a machine like it; and the body can do a thousand
things there isn't a factory in the world can duplicate the motion."
(Rabbit at Rest)
your mother, if she asks, that maybe we'll meet some other time.
Under the pear trees, in Paradise." (Rabbit at Rest)
plants tomatoes seemed the most human, eager and fragile and prone
to rot". (The Witches of Eastwick)
all dream, and we all stand aghast at the mouth of the caves of
our deaths; and this is our way in. Into the nether world.”
(The Witches of Eastwick)
wake at different times, and the gallantest flowers are those
that bloom in the cold." (The Witches of Eastwick)
Irish temper makes you appreciate Lutherans." (Terrorist)