Author John Updike (born 1932) mirrored his America in poems, short stories, essays, and novels, especially the four-volume "Rabbit" series.
John Updike was born on March 18, 1932, in Shillington, Pennsylvania. His father, Wesley, was a high school mathematics teacher, the model for several sympathetic father figures in Updike's early works. Because Updike's mother, Linda Grace Hoyer Updike, nurtured literary aspirations of her own, books were a large part of the boy's early life. This fertile environment prepared the way for a prolific career which began in earnest at the age of 22, upon the publication of his first story, "Friends from Philadelphia, " in the New Yorker in 1954.
Updike admired the New Yorker and aspired to become a cartoonist for that periodical. He majored in English at Harvard where he developed his skills as a graphic artist and cartoonist for the Lampoon, the college's humor magazine. In 1953, his junior year at Harvard, he married Mary Pennington, a Radcliffe art student. Upon graduation the following year, Updike and his bride went to London where he had won a Knox fellowship for study at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art in Oxford.
He returned to the United States in 1955 and took a job as a staff writer at the New Yorker at the invitation of famed editor E. B. White, achieving a life-long goal. But after two years and many "Talk of the Town" columns, he left New York for Ipswich, Massachusetts, to devote himself full time to his own writing.
Twenty Years of Poetry
Updike began his remarkable career as a poet in 1958 by publishing his first volume, a collection of poems titled The Carpentered Hen. It is a book of light, amusing verse in the style of Ogden Nash and Robert Service. The poetry possesses several stylistic conventions shared by his fiction: careful attention to the sounds of words and the nuances of their meanings, the use of popular culture by identifying objects by familiar brand names, and the mimicry of the popular press through advertising language and newspaper editorial boosterism. For example, a trivial snippet from Life magazine becomes the basis of a poem called "Youth's Progress, " which ostensibly details the physical metamorphosis of a young boy into an adult. "Dick Schneider of Wisconsin … was elected 'Greek God' for an interfraternity ball, " states the original excerpt from Life. The poem takes its cue from this by citing the common milestones of developing youth: "My teeth were firmly braced and much improved./ Two years went by; my tonsils were removed." The poet then playfully contrasts the narcissistic concerns of youth with the uniquely American optimistic faith in democracy, culminating in the assertion that even Greek divinity is accessible to the common man: "At twenty-one, I was elected Zeus."
Updike's output of light verse diminished with the publication of each succeeding volume of poems, and he stated later that he "writes no light verse now." His poetry has been collected in several volumes, among them Telephone Poles and Other Poems (1963); Midpoint (1969), which is an introspective assessment of the midpoint of his life; and Tossing and Turning (1977), which some critics consider his finest collection of verse. Much of the verse has been collected in a chronological format in a one-volume edition called Collected Poems: 1953-1993 (1993). Updike's poetry continued to appear in publications such as Poetry and the New Yorker.
The "Rabbit" Series and Other Novels
John Updike's first novel, published in 1959, was called Poorhouse Fair. It is a dystopian portrayal of an imaginary place under cruel conditions in the tradition of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, depicting life in a welfare state projected twenty years into the future, the late 1970s. The conflict between Conner, the young prefect of the home with an obsession for order, and Hook, a 94-year-old inmate who rebels against regimentation, is unresolved by the end of the novel, causing certain critics considerable discomfort with its ambiguity, especially Norman Podhoretz and other Commentary reviewers.
Although Updike's reputation rests on his complete body of works, he was first established as a major American writer upon the publication of his novel Rabbit Run (1960), although at that date no one could have predicted the rich series of novels that would follow it. It chronicled the life of Harry (Rabbit) Angstrom, creating as memorable an American character as Hester Prynne, Jay Gatsby, and Bigger Thomas. Harry Angstrom's life peaked in high school where he was admired as a superb basketball player. By the age of 26 he is washed up in a dead-end job, demonstrating gadgets in a dime store, living a disappointed and constricted life: "I once did something right. I played first-rate basketball. I really did. And after you're first-rate at something, no matter what, it kind of takes the kick out of being second-rate." His primal reaction to this problem is to run (as would his namesake). And like Christian in the beginning of Pilgrim's Progress, he runs, fleeing his wife and family as though the salvation of his soul depends upon it. The climax of Rabbit's search results in tragedy, but it is to the credit of Updike's skill that great sympathy for a not-very-likable character is extracted from readers.
The second novel in the series, Rabbit Redux (1971), takes up the story of Harry Angstrom ten years later at the age of 36. Updike continues Rabbit's story against a background of current events. The novel begins on the day of the moon shot. It is the late 1960s and the optimism of American technology is countered by the despair of race riots, anti-Vietnam protests, and the drug culture. Rabbit is nostalgic for the secure serenity of the Eisenhower years. But his world is unsettled by realization that the old way of life is rapidly disappearing, his mother is dying of disease, and his father is aged. Rabbit has become complacent in the face of change. His wife, Janice, from whom he fled in Rabbit Run, now flees him and his inertia. His family is falling apart, mirroring divisive problems of the country at large. Rabbit finally overcomes his complacency and brings "outsiders" into his home, attempting to reconstitute his family. Although some critics were disappointed, Charles Thomas Samuels and Eugene Lyons among them, most, like Brendan Gill and Richard Locke, considered Rabbit Redux a successful novel.
The next book in the series was Rabbit Is Rich (1981), which won the 1982 Pulitzer Prize. Rabbit is 46 and finally successful, selling Japanese fuel-efficient cars during the time of the oil crisis in the 1970s. In this novel Rabbit's son Nelson's failure becomes the counterweight to Rabbit's success. Updike describes an upper-middle-class milieu of Caribbean vacations and wife-swapping. Nelson revives Rabbit's vice of irresponsibility but without the grace Rabbit possessed in his youth. Rabbit again becomes the source of family salvation. He steps in for the missing Nelson to be present at the birth of his grandchild. In a sense, the loss of momentum represented by the fuel shortage and the consequent slowing of industry, and even the aging Harry Angstrom, is tentatively renewed by this young life. Updike offers slender hope in a bleak American landscape.
Rabbit at Rest (1990) brings Rabbit into the 1980s to confront an even grimmer set of problems: AIDS, cocaine addiction, and terrorism. Rabbit suffers a heart attack and is haunted by ghosts of his past. Death looms ever larger. The fragility of life and the randomness of death are represented for Harry by the Lockerbie tragedy where death becomes as inevitable as "falling from the burst-open airplane: he too is falling, helplessly falling, toward death." In these four novels an insignificant life presses and insists itself upon our consciousness, and we realize that this life has become the epic of our common American experience recorded over three decades.
Updike wrote many other major novels, including The Centaur (1963), Couples (1965), A Month of Sundays (1975), The Witches of Eastwick (1984), and Brazil (1993). Updike was also the author of several volumes of short stories, among them Pigeon Feathers (1962), The Music School (1966), Bech: A Book (1970), Museums and Women (1972), and Bech Is Back (1982). His novel In the Beauty of the Lilies (1996) was met with mixed reviews from such esteemed literary critics as Gore Vidal. In addition to being a prolific novelist, Updike also released several volumes of essays, two being Odd Jobs (1991) and Just Looking: Essays on Art (1989). In 1996, he released a collection, Golf Dreams: Writings on Golf (1996), which was met with favorable reviews. David Owen wrote in the New York Times Book Review, "Like plenty of other golfers, I suspect, I wish that John Updike had spent fewer man-years dutifully weighing the merits of unappealing foreign novels and more reflecting on his slice."
Updike has been honored throughout his career: twice he received the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. He also received the American Book Award and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Updike has been one of the most prolific American authors of his time, leading even his most ardent fans to confess, as Sean French did in New Statesman and Society, "…Updike can write faster than I can read…"
For Updike's discussion of himself and his work, his own Picked-up Pieces (1975) is useful because it contains interviews of Updike by others. Michael A. Olivas has compiled a useful bibliography called An Annotated Bibliography of John Updike Criticism, 1967-1973. For an early dissenting opinion on Updike see Norman Podhoretz's Doings and Undoings (1964). For good, concise, non-ideological discussions of Updike and his novels, see Robert Detweiler's Twain Edition of John Updike (1984). See also Donald Greiner's John Updike's Novels (1984). For a wide selection of reviews and essays, see William Macnaughton's Critical Essays on John Updike (1982). □
"John Updike." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 29, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/john-updike
"John Updike." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved April 29, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/john-updike
Born: March 18, 1932
American author and poet
Author John Updike mirrored his America in poems, short stories, essays, and novels, especially the four-volume "Rabbit" series.
John Hoyer Updike was born on March 18, 1932, in Shillington, Pennsylvania. His father, Wesley, was a high school mathematics teacher, the model for several sympathetic father figures in Updike's early works. Because Updike's mother, Linda Grace Hoyer Updike, had literary dreams of her own, books were a large part of the boy's early life. A sickly child, Updike turned to reading and art as an escape. In high school, he worked on the school newspaper and excelled in academics and upon graduation was admitted into Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
At the age of twenty-two, Updike began his writing career when he published his first story "Friends from Philadelphia," in the New Yorker in 1954. Since childhood Updike had admired the New Yorker and always dreamed of becoming a cartoonist for the magazine. He majored in English at Harvard where he developed his skills as a graphic artist and cartoonist for the Lampoon, the college's humor magazine. In 1953, his junior year at Harvard, he married Mary Pennington, a Radcliffe art student. Upon graduation the following year, Updike and his bride went to London, England, where he had won a Knox fellowship (scholarship) for study at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art in Oxford, England.
Updike returned to the United States in 1955 and took a job as a staff writer at the New Yorker at the invitation of famed editor E. B. White (1899–1985), achieving a lifelong goal. But after two years and many "Talk of the Town" columns, he left New York City for Ipswich, Massachusetts, to devote himself full time to his own writing.
Twenty years of poetry
Updike began his remarkable career as a poet in 1958 by publishing his first volume, a collection of poems titled The Carpentered Hen. It is a book of light, amusing verse in the style of Ogden Nash (1902–1971) and Robert Service (1874–1958). The poetry possesses several styles shared by his fiction: careful attention to the sounds of words and of their meanings, the use of popular culture by identifying objects by familiar brand names, and the imitation of the popular press through advertising language.
Updike's output of light verse diminished with the publication of each succeeding volume of poems. His poetry has been collected in several volumes, among them Telephone Poles and Other Poems (1963); Midpoint (1969), which is a personal look at the midpoint of his life; and Tossing and Turning (1977), which some critics consider his finest collection of verse.
The "Rabbit" series and other novels
Although Updike's reputation rests on his complete body of work, he was first established as a major American writer upon the publication of his novel Rabbit Run (1960)—although at that date no one could have predicted the rich series of novels that would follow. It chronicled the life of Harry (Rabbit) Angstrom, creating as memorable an American character as any that appeared in the twentieth century. Harry Angstrom's life peaked in high school where he was admired as a superb basketball player. But by the age of twenty-six he is washed up in a dead-end job, demonstrating gadgets in a dime store, living a disappointed and constricted life. His natural reaction to this problem is to "run" (as would his namesake). And he runs, fleeing his wife and family as though the salvation of his soul depends upon it. The climax of Rabbit's search results in tragedy, but it is to the credit of Updike's skill that great sympathy for a dislikable character is brought forth from readers.
The second novel in the series, Rabbit Redux (1971), takes up the story of Harry Angstrom ten years later at the age of thirty-six. Updike continues Rabbit's story against a background of current events. The novel begins on the day of the moon shot, when the first human walked on the moon. It is the late 1960s and the optimism of American technology is countered by the sour feelings towards race riots, antiwar protests, and the drug culture. His family is falling apart, mirroring the problems of the country at large. Rabbit finally overcomes his dismal situation and brings "outsiders" into his home, attempting to recreate his family.
The next book in the series is Rabbit Is Rich (1981), which won the 1982 Pulitzer Prize. Rabbit is forty-six and finally successful, selling Japanese fuel-efficient cars during the time of the oil crisis in the 1970s. In this novel Rabbit's son Nelson's failure becomes the counterweight to Rabbit's success.
Rabbit at Rest (1990) brings Rabbit into the 1980s to confront an even grimmer set of problems: acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS; an incurable disease that attacks the immune system), cocaine addiction, and terrorism. Rabbit suffers a heart attack and is haunted by ghosts of his past. Death looms ever larger. In these four novels an insignificant life presses and insists itself upon our consciousness, and we realize that this life has become the story of our common American experience recorded over three decades.
Updike wrote many other major novels, including The Centaur (1963), Couples (1965), A Month of Sundays (1975), The Witches of Eastwick (1984), Brazil (1993), and Bech at Bay (1998). Updike was also the author of several volumes of short stories, among them Pigeon Feathers (1962), The Music School (1966), Bech: A Book (1970), Museums and Women (1972), and Bech Is Back (1982).
In 1999 Updike published More Matter: Essays and Criticism, a collection of occasional pieces, reviews, speeches, and some personal reflection. On February 27, 2000, his novel Gertrude and Claudius was published by Knopf. The book was based on William Shakespeare's (1564–1616) play Hamlet.
Updike has been honored throughout his career: twice he received the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. He also received the American Book Award and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Updike has been one of the most productive American authors of his time, leading even his most dedicated fans to confess, as Sean French did in New Statesman and Society, "Updike can write faster than I can read."
For More Information
Bloom, Harold, ed. John Updike. Broomall, PA: Chelsea House, 1987.
De Bellis, Jack. The John Updike Encyclopedia. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000.
Schiff, James A. John Updike Revisited. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1998.
Updike, John. Self-Consciousness: Memoirs. New York: Knopf, 1989.
"Updike, John." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 29, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/updike-john
"Updike, John." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved April 29, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/updike-john
John Updike, 1932–2009, American author, one of the nation's most distinguished 20th-century men of letters, b. Shillington, Pa., grad. Harvard, 1954. In his many novels and stories, written in a well-modulated prose of extraordinary beauty, lyricism, and dazzling fluidity and with a sure eye for the details of ordinary domestic life, Updike usually treats the tensions and frustrations of the middle class, often mingling the joys and sorrows of suburban life with a current of existential dread. His
perhaps his most famous novels, begins with Rabbit Run (1961), which, set in Pennsylvania in the 1950s, concerns the young Harry
Angstrom, a sort of surburban everyman who yearns for his days as a high school basketball star, hates his salesman's job, and, fleeing a loveless marriage, deserts his wife and child. The next books follow him through three decades of American life. In Rabbit Redux (1971), he confronts racial tension, job obsolescence, sexual freedom, drugs, violence, and the alienation of the young. The quartet continues with Rabbit Is Rich (1981; Pulitzer Prize) and ends with Rabbit at Rest (1990; Pulitzer Prize). The Rabbit characters are brought up to date in Rabbit Remembered, a novella-sequel included in the volume Licks of Love (2000).
Remarkably prolific, Updike produced about a book a year, publishing 60 volumes (including 26 novels) during his lifetime as well as reams of miscellaneous writings. His other novels include The Poorhouse Fair (1959); The Centaur (1962); the sensual Couples (1968); the exotic The Coup (1978); the wickedly comic The Witches of Eastwick (1984) and its sequel, The Widows of Eastwick (2008); the epic In the Beauty of the Lilies (1995); Seek My Face (2002); and The Terrorist (2006). Among his volumes of poetry, many consisting of light verse, are The Carpentered Hen (1958), Facing Nature (1985), Americana (2001), and Endpoint and Other Poems (2009). His many superb short-story collections include Pigeon Feathers (1962), Museums and Women and Other Stories (1972), Problems (1979), The Afterlife and Other Stories (1994), My Father's Tears and Other Stories (2009), and the linked stories that feature Updike's Jewish, urban, unmarried, and writer's-blocked alter ego, Henry Bech: Bech: A Book (1970), Bech Is Back (1982), and Bech at Bay (1998). Updike also wrote the play Buchanan Dying (1974) and a variety of nonfiction—literary criticism, e.g., Hugging the Shore (1983), Odd Jobs (1991), More Matter (1999), and Due Considerations (2007); art criticism, e.g., Just Looking (1989), Still Looking (2005), and the posthumous Always Looking (2012); and essays on numerous subjects, e.g., Golf Dreams (1996) and Higher Gossip (2011).
See his memoirs (1989, repr. 2012); J. Plath, ed., Conversations with John Updike (1994); biography by A. Begley (2014); studies by D. Thorburn and H. Eiland, ed. (1979), W. R, Macnaughton, ed. (1982), J. Detweiler (rev. ed. 1984), J. H. Campbell (1987), J. Newman (1988), R. M. Luscher (1993), J. A. Schiff (1998), J. Yerkes, ed. (1999), W. H. Pritchard (2000), J. De Bellis, ed. (2005), and P. J. Bailey (2006); J. De Bellis, The John Updike Encyclopedia (2000).
"Updike, John." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 29, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/updike-john
"Updike, John." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved April 29, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/updike-john
Updike, John (Hoyer)
UPDIKE, John (Hoyer)
Nationality: American. Born in Shillington, Pennsylvania, 18 March 1932. Educated at public schools in Shillington; Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, A.B. (summa cum laude) 1954; Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Arts, Oxford (Knox fellow), 1954-55.Married 1) Mary Pennington in 1953 (marriage dissolved), two daughters and two sons; 2) Martha Bernhard in 1977. Career: staff reporter, New Yorker, 1955-57. Recipient: Guggenheim fellowship, 1959; Rosenthal award, 1960; National Book award, 1964; O. Henry award, 1966; Foreign Book prize (France), 1966; New England Poetry Club Golden Rose, 1979, MacDowell medal, 1981; Pulitzer prize, 1982, 1991; American Book award, 1982; National Book Critics Circle award, for fiction, 1982, 1991, for criticism, 1982; Union League Club Abraham Lincoln award, 1982; National Arts Club Medal of Honor, 1984; PEN/Faulkner award, 1988; National Medal of the Arts, 1989; Pulitzer Prize, 1991; National Book Critics Circle award, 1991; Harvard Arts medal, 1998; National Book Foundation award, Lifetime Achievement, 1998. Member, American Academy, 1976. Address: Beverly Farms, Beverly, Massachusetts 01915, U.S.A.
The Poorhouse Fair. New York, Knopf, and London, Gollancz, 1959
Rabbit, Run. New York, Knopf, 1960; London, Deutsch, 1961
The Centaur. New York, Knopf, and London, Deutsch, 1963.
Of the Farm. New York, Knopf, 1965.
Couples. New York, Knopf, and London, Deutsch, 1968
Rabbit Redux. New York, Knopf, 1971; London, Deutsch, 1972.
A Month of Sundays. New York, Knopf, and London, Deutsch, 1975.
Marry Me: A Romance. New York, Knopf, 1976; London, Deutsch, 1977.
The Coup. New York, Knopf, 1978; London, Deutsch, 1979.
Rabbit Is Rich. New York, Knopf, 1981; London, Deutsch, 1982.
The Witches of Eastwick. New York, Knopf, and London, Deutsch, 1984.
Roger's Version. New York, Knopf, and London, Deutsch, 1986.
S. New York, Knopf, and London Deutsch, 1988.
Rabbit at Rest. New York, Knopf, 1990; London, Deutsch, 1991.
Memories of the Ford Administration. New York, Knopf, 1992;London, Hamish Hamilton, 1993.
Brazil. New York, Knopf, and London, Hamish Hamilton, 1994.
Rabbit Angstrom: A Tetralogy. New York, Knopf, 1995.
In the Beauty of the Lilies. New York, Knopf, 1996.
Toward the End of Time. New York, Knopf, 1997.
Bech at Bay: A Quasi-novel. New York, Knopf, 1998.
Gertrude and Claudius. New York, Knopf, 2000.
The Same Door. New York, Knopf, 1959; London, Deutsch, 1962.
Pigeon Feathers and Other Stories. New York, Knopf, and London, Deutsch, 1962.
Olinger Stories: A Selection. New York, Knopf, 1964.
The Music School. New York, Knopf, 1966; London, Deutsch, 1967.
Penguin Modern Stories 2, with others. London, Penguin, 1969.
Bech: A Book. New York, Knopf, and London, Deutsch, 1970.
The Indian. Marvin, South Dakota, Blue Cloud Abbey, 1971.
Museums and Women and Other Stories. New York, Knopf, 1972;London, Deutsch, 1973.
Warm Wine: An Idyll. New York, Albondocani Press, 1973.
Couples: A Short Story. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Halty Ferguson, 1976.
Too Far to Go: The Maples Stories. New York, Knopf, 1979; London, Deutsch, 1980.
Three Illuminations in the Life of an American Author. New York, Targ, 1979.
The Chaste Planet. Worcester, Massachusetts, Metacom Press, 1980.
The Beloved. Nothridge, California, Lord John Press, 1982.
Bech Is Back. New York, Knopf, 1982; London, Deutsch, 1982.
Getting Older. Helsinki, Eurographica, 1985.
Going Abroad. Helsinki, Eurographica, 1987
Trust Me. New York, Knopf, and London, Deutsch, 1987.
The Afterlife. Leamington, Warwickshire, Sixth Chamber Press, 1987.
Baby's First Step. Huntington Beach, California, Cahill, 1993.
The Afterlife and Other Stories. New York, Knopf, and London, Hamish Hamilton, 1994.
Licks of Love: Short Stories and a Sequel, "Rabbit Remembered." New York, Knopf, 2000.
Uncollected Short Stories
"Morocco," in Atlantic (Boston), November 1979.
Three Tests from Early Ipswich: A Pageant. Ipswich, Massachusetts, 17th Century Day Committee, 1968.
Buchanan Dying. New York, Knopf, and London, Deutsch, 1974.
The Carpentered Hen and Other Tame Creatures. New York, Harper, 1958; as Hoping for a Hoopoe, London, Gollancz, 1959.
Telephone Poles and Other Poems. New York, Knopf, and London, Deutsch, 1963.
Verse. New York, Fawcett, 1965.
Dogs Death. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Lowell House, 1965.
The Angels. Pensacola, Florida, King and Queen Press, 1968.
Bath after Sailing. Monroe, Connecticut, Pendulum Press, 1968.
Midpoint and Other Poems. New York, Knopf, and London, Deutsch, 1969.
Seventy Poems. London, Penguin, 1972.
Six Poems. New York, Aloe, 1973.
Query. New York, Albondocani Press, 1974.
Cunts (Upon Receiving the Swingers Life Club Memberships Solicitation ). New York, Hallman, 1974.
Tossing and Turning. New York, Knopf, and London, Deutsch, 1977.
Sixteen Sonnets. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Halty Ferguson, 1979.
An Oddly Lovely Day Alone. Richmond, Virginia, Waves Press, 1979.
Five Poems. Cleveland Bits Press, 1980.
Spring Trio. Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Palaemon Press, 1982.
Jester's Dozen. Northridge, California, Lord John Press, 1984.
Facing Nature. New York, Knopf, 1985; London, Deutsch, 1986.
A Pear Like a Potato. Northridge, California, Santa Susana Press, 1986.
Two Sonnets. Austin, Texas, Wind River Press, 1987.
Collected Poems, 1953-1993. New York, Knopf, and London, HamishHamilton, 1993.
The Magic Flute (for children), with Warren Chappell. New York, Knopf, 1962.
The Ring (for children), with Warren Chappell. New York, Knopf, 1964.
Assorted Prose. New York, Knopf, and London, Deutsch, 1965.
A Child's Calendar. New York, Knopf, 1965.
On Meeting Authors. Newburyport, Massachusetts, Wickford Press, 1968.
Bottom's Dream: Adapted from William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Nights Dream" (for children). New York, Knopf, 1969.
A Good Place. New York, Aloe, 1973. Picked-Up Pieces. New York, Knopf, 1975; London, Deutsch, 1976.
Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu. Northridge, California, Lord John Press, 1977.
Talk from the Fifties. Northridge, California, Lord John Press, 1979.
Ego and Art in Walt Whitman. New York, Targ, 1980.
People One Knows: Interviews with Insufficiently Famous Americans. Northridge, California, Lord John Press, 1980.
Invasion of the Book Envelopes. Concord, New Hampshire, Ewert, 1981.
Hawthorne's Creed. New York, Targ, 1981.
Hugging the Shore: Essays and Criticism. New York, Knopf, 1983;London, Deutsch, 1984.
Confessions of a Wild Bore (essay). Newton, Iowa, TamazunchalePress, 1984.
Emersonianism (lecture). Cleveland, Bits Press, 1984.
The Art of Adding and the Art of Taking Away: Selections from John Updike's Manuscripts, edited by Elizabeth A. Falsey. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard College Library, 1987.
Self-Consciousness: Memoirs. New York, Knopf, and London, Deutsch, 1989.
Just Looking: Essays on Art. New York, Knopf, and London, Deutsch, 1989.
Odd Jobs: Essays and Criticism. New York, Knopf, and London, Deutsch, 1991.
Concerts at Castle Hill. Northridge, California, Lord John Press, 1993.
The Twelve Terrors of Christmas. New York, Gotham Book Mart, 1993.
Golf Dreams: Writings on Golf, drawings by Paul Szep. New York, Knopf, 1996.
A & P, edited by Wendy Perkins. Fort Worth, Texas, Harcourt BraceCollege Publishers, 1998.
More Matter: Essays and Criticism. New York, Knopf, 1999.
Editor, Pens and Needles, by David Levine. Boston, Gambit, 1970.
Editor, with Shannon Ravenel, The Best American Short Stories 1984. Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1984; as The Year's Best American Short Stories, London, Severn House, 1985.
Editor, A Century of Arts and Letters: The History of the National Institute of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Letters as Told, Decade by Decade, by Eleven Members. New York, Columbia University Press, 1998.*
John Updike: A Bibliography by C. Clarke Taylor, Kent, Ohio, Kent State University Press, 1968; An Annotated Bibliography of John Updike Criticism 1967-1973, and a Checklist of His Works by Michael A. Olivas, New York, Garland, 1975; John Updike: A Comprehensive Bibliography with Selected Annotations by Elizabeth A. Gearhart, Norwood, Pennsylvania, Norwood Editions, 1978; John Updike: A Bibliography, 1967-1993, compiled by Jack De Bellis, foreword by John Updike, Westport, Connecticut, Greenwood Press, 1994.
Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
interviews in Life (New York), 4 November 1966, Paris Review, Winter 1968, and New York Times Book Review, 10 April 1977; John Updike by Charles T. Samuels, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1969; The Elements of John Updike by Alice and Kenneth Hamilton, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, 1970; Pastoral and Anti-Pastoral Elements in John Updike's Fiction by Larry E. Taylor, Carbondale, Southern Illinois University Press, 1971; John Updike: Yea Sayings by Rachael C. Burchard, Carbondale, Southern Illinois University Press, 1971; John Updike by Robert Detweiler, New York, Twayne, 1972, revised edition, 1984; Rainstorms and Fire: Ritual in the Novels of John Updike by Edward P. Vargo, Port Washington, New York, Kennikat Press, 1973; Fighters and Lovers: Theme in the Novels of John Updike by Joyce B. Markle, New York, New York University Press, 1973; John Updike: A Collection of Critical Essays by Suzanne H. Uphaus, New York, Ungar, 1980; The Other John Updike: Poems/Short Stories/Prose/Play, 1981, and John Updike's Novels, 1984, both by Donald J. Greiner, Athens, Ohio University Press; John Updike's Images of America by Philip H. Vaughan, Reseda, California, Mojave, 1981; Married Men and Magic Tricks: John Updike's Erotic Heroes by Elizabeth Tallent, Berkeley, California, Creative Arts, 1982; Critical Essays on John Updike edited by William R. Macnaughton, Boston, Hall, 1982; John Updike by Judie Newman, London, Macmillan, 1988; Conversations with John Updike edited by James Plath, Jackson, Mississippi, University Press, 1994; John Updike Revisited by James A. Schiff, New York, Twayne Publishers, 1998; John Updike and Religion: The Sense of the Sacred and The Motions of Grace, edited by James Yerkes, Grand Rapids, Michigan, W.B. Eerdmans, 1999; The John Updike Encyclopedia by Jack De Bellis, Westport, Connecticut, Greenwood Press, 2000; John Updike, edited by Harold Bloom, Philadelphia, Chelsea House Publishers, 2000.
John Updike comments:
In over thirty years as a professional writer I have tried to give my experience of life imaginative embodiment in novels, short stories, and poems. Art is, as I understand it, reality passed through a human mind, and this secondary creation remains for me unfailingly interesting and challenging.* * *
For over forty years, Updike has been regularly producing his novels about small town and suburban middle class Americans—in short, ordinary people—and their messy domestic lives. He writes with relish, caring, and precision of their marriages and remarriages, sexual trysts, and their struggles to make sense of themselves. Births, deaths, infidelities, and failures fill his pages. Violence, blessedly, is rarely present. Most often, the books chart the way his protagonists adjust their dreams to more nearly match reality. What mark, he wonders, do such people's lives finally make? He is adept at describing the day-to-day existence of suburban bridge players who cultivate their roses, trim their hedges, feed their faces, tidy their homes, maintain contact with children and grandchildren and "socioeconomically identical acquaintances," and travel to Florida and to Maine in suitable seasons, to paraphrase Updike. He also captures specific time periods in our history: the 1950s, the cold war, the Eisenhower and Kennedy eras, and Truman's America. Allegorically, the Nixon term in the White House lies behind The Coup, a novel set in Africa. Buchanan's aborted presidency and the Ford administration have also been treated. He adopts various voices, writing from a woman's perspective as well as a man's; using present tense to tell some tales; writing at once from the perspective of a Protestant, ex-basketball star, Harry Angstrom, living in rural Pennsylvania, while at other times employing the persona of his alter-ego, Henry Bech, unmarried, childless, and Jewish, suffering from writer's block and settled in Manhattan.
In his first novel, The Poorhouse Fair, he took an old people's home as his subject and experimented with the form of the anti-novel. At the time, readers were startled that such a young man would write so knowingly about the old people, his grandfather's generation. In a sense, his career has come full circle. In 1997 he published Toward the End of Time, where he assumes the voice of Ben Turnbull, a sixty-six year old, twice married, retired investment counselor, living in Massachusetts in the year 2020. America has been reduced to a commonwealth, complete with new currency, brought about by a Sino-American Conflict that dissolved the government, collapsed the national economy, decimated the population, and resulted in social chaos. Only the criminal elements have the resources left to rule. Ben's journal recounts the happenings of a difficult year when he is preoccupied by sex and aging, only to find he has prostate cancer. He suffers the indignities and pain of surgery and the consequent incontinence and impotence that follow. He revisits his past, his life with his first wife, Perdita, and with his second wife, the ravishing, strong-willed, dynamic, Gloria, who is determined to have him kill the deer that are ruining her roses, yew bushes, and the euonymus hedge over by the driveway. There are blank spots in his thinking and his journal captures his daily life, often leaving the reader uncertain whether the facts he recounts are true or imagined. In typical Updike form, the novelist fleshes out Ben's mind, recounting his fascination with recent scientific theories about parallel universes that have branched from this moment of measurement. Often he seems to enter one or another of these other "many worlds." Ben also ruminates on Neanderthal man, the Biblical past, St. Paul and his crisis theology, his own personal ancestry, and looks forward into future time.
True also to form, Updike offers an unblinking account of the processes of aging and Ben's numerous infirmities, capturing his fears and joys, the toll age exacts and the hopes it awakens. Ben insists that his wife is worried about whether she or he will die first, priming him with vitamins by day while by night, dreaming of his death. Later he marvels at her loyalty and bravery in the face of his illness, at the same time he refuses to minimize his discomforts—his "rumbling, spurting bowels" and his diapers—or her level-headed, self-centered and self-protective ways. His olfactory sense is heightened—all stinks and messes are minutely described. He fears for the sanity of his mind and wonders how much he has forgotten. In one of his fantasies that seems to be real, he purchases the favors of a young prostitute, relishing the numerous ways he can take her, the cunnilingus and fellatio they can practice, his desire to slap her too decisively in the midst of sex, the pleasure he takes in talking crudely to her, addressing her as his "bitch," "whore," and "working-class doxy," but bringing her into his house as his so-called "wife" during a period of time when he claims that his wife has disappeared and he seems uncertain whether he has shot her in his attempt to get rid of the deer, or whether she is simply misplaced or has left him.
This novel and his latest book, Gertrude and Claudius, compare with other "last works" of such great writers as Shakespeare or Yeats in that the vision shifts, mellows, while the writer employs new forms and an altered style to reflect the wisdom and insights that come with age. Shakespeare completed his life with three "last plays," Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale, and The Tempest. In each, he abandons the form of the tragedy, replacing it with romance. In The Winter's Tale the central action of an entire tragedy is compressed into the opening act. Later, sixteen years passes, a child grows up, a statue comes to life, and Leontes, the jealous king of the first act regains a wife. In later poetry of Yeats, the poet continues his celebration of the world of artifice and Byzantium, but acknowledges in "The Circus Animals' Desertion" that all inspiration starts in "the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart." Updike also relies more on romance and myth in his latest novels while at the same time reveling in the powers of the body and sex and probing philosophical questions about the nature of life, time, and religion. Even as the physical body visibly decays, the protagonist's hunger is not only undiminished, it is heightened, and the spirit of experimentation and a craving for plenty is abundant. Many of the passages explicitly describing sex recall the excesses of sexuality expressed in "The Wild Old Wicked Man" and other late poems by Yeats. The bizarre grotesqueries that also figure in Toward the End of Time have an oddness akin to the monstrous scene in Cymbeline where Imogen cradles the headless body of Cloten in her arms, mistaking him for her beloved Posthumous. The manner in which Updike condenses material that earlier had engrossed him, and lingers on descriptive passages of a bucolic texture while taking extreme liberties with time also make the comparison apt.
Updike has often drawn on myth and fairy tales in his novels and reworked the stories of others. The St. Stephen story figures prominently in The Poorhouse Fair and reappears in Toward the End of Time. The Centaur uses the Chiron version of the Hercules myth, alternately telling the tale of George Caldwell, a teacher and the Chiron figure, and the Centaur. The subject of Rabbit, Run, the first novel in his tetralogy, is based on Beatrix Potter's Tale of Peter Rabbit. In The Witches of Eastwick, Updike looks at the lives of three modern day divorcées, seeing the similarities between their predicament and those of witches and their covens. Darryl Van Horne is the devil in this work. Therefore, it is not unexpected to find him theorizing in Toward the End of Time that several worlds and different time periods may exist simultaneously and offering glimpses into these alternate worlds or earlier times.
His habit of rewriting stories from the perspectives of different characters is also one of his trademarks. He has written a trilogy of novels based on Nathaniel Hawthorne's, The Scarlet Letter. In Updike's case, A Month of Sundays tells the story of the adulterous minister, Marshfield, from his point of view and offers a parody of the triangle in Hawthorne's tale; in Roger's Version we are given the betrayed husband's perspective and Updike explores the theme of the unknowability of God; S. completes the trilogy providing the view of the adulterous woman, Hawthorne's Hester Prynne.
His decision to write a novel about the lives of Gertrude, Claudius, Hamlet Senior, and Hamlet immediately prior to where the action opens in Shakespeare's play is almost expected. I should hasten to mention that the central figures appear under different names in different parts of the book, a topic that bears further comment later.
Updike has long marveled at the talents of James Joyce, understanding his need to write his own variant of Shakespeare's story and the Hamlet material in his masterwork, Ulysses. Joyce uses Stephen to spin his erudite explanation of Shakespeare's relationship to his creations, both the real children he bore in life and those he invented in his writings. He is familiar with Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, also based on the Hamlet legend. Updike, ever the researcher and inventive in the interests of his art, fashions his novel in three parts and presents Gertrude's story. In Part I of his book, he turns to a late-twelfth-century Latin account of the ancient Hamlet legend in Historia Danica of Saxo Grammaticus that was first printed in Paris in 1514. In Part II, he uses alternate spellings of the central figures' names, drawing on another version of the Saxo tale, François de Belleforest's, Histoires tragiques, that appeared prior to Shakespeare's Hamlet and was republished in English in 1608, probably as a result of the popularity of Shakespeare's play. In Part III, he concludes his novel, drawing on the so-called Ur-Hamlet, generally attributed to Thomas Kyd that was acquired by Shakespeare's company and served as the source of his play. Updike achieves a marvelous sense of ancient history and times, largely by dint of employing the ancient spellings of the names of the central characters and by imitating the style of an old Danish legend in his writing. For example, Gerutha is Gertrude in Part I, Horwendil is Hamlet Senior, Feng is Claudius, and Corambis is Polonius, coming originally from a German variant of the ancient tale. Hamlet first emerges as Amleth. He recounts the tale whereby Rorik (Gertrude's father) pledges Gerutha to Horwendil, co-governor of Jutland, who has slain the tormentor of Denmark's coast, the feared King Koll of Norway, giving him the funeral he required while butchering the slain man's sister, as his brother, Feng (read Claudius) is fighting on behalf of the Holy Roman Emperor and whoring in far away lands. Updike takes sheer delight in writing this ancient saga with a thoroughly contemporary twist, and his stylistic touches show him at his best.
The book also seems to be a vehicle to answer some of his feminist critics who have faulted Updike for the way he treats women. He has been accused of constantly treating women as broads, air-heads, often amoral. Some feminists loathed The Witches of Eastwick, resenting Updike's treatment of the three female women, their philosophies of life, their forays into lesbianism, their fascination with and seduction by Horne. In Gertrude and Claudius Hamlet is depicted as a cold, unloving son and Gertrude's affair with Claudius is traced to her ambivalence towards Hamlet Senior, a man whom she was obliged to marry by her father after he had conquered the King Koll.
Updike's style in this book is beguiling: he adopts the tone of an earlier age, proffering the story from Gertrude's perspective and capturing her domesticity, her boredom, her yearning to be truly needed by her husband and lord, not simply taken by him through his authority and used to produce heirs. His treatment of Gertrude's sense of guilt once she has taken her husband's brother to her bed and her desire to remain ignorant of Claudius's ultimate crime while harboring the truth just below her levels of consciousness is convincing. His grasp of Polonius, Hamlet, and Ophelia also seems fresh. Given how much has been written about this play of Shakespeare's, it is hard to imagine that a writer could offer another plausible reading, appropriate to the late twentieth century. Updike has managed to do this in a manner that will delight the reader.
One of the virtues of Updike's talent is that so many of his books are memorable. The tetralogy of books that take Harry Angstrom as their protagonist, namely Rabbit Run, Rabbit Redux, Rabbit is Rich, and Rabbit at Rest, assured Updike his place as one of America's best contemporary writers. He aspires to a quality of writing he finds in Iris Murdoch, Muriel Spark, Henry Green, Saul Bellow, and Philip Roth and it is fair to say that he has achieved that goal. The freshness of his characters, the truth of his vision, and his ability to describe exactly events, places, people, and feelings are all evident in this very American collection. In Couples, his wildly popular novel of wife-swapping among suburbanites, he ensured that his audience would remember him as one of the very finest describers of sex, belonging alongside Vladimir Nabokov, Philip Roth, Henry Miller, and Jack Kerouac, writers whom he invokes when he discusses how sex is depicted in this pornographic age of ours. Of course, D.H. Lawrence and James Joyce are the writers that first convinced him that sex must assume a central place in any writing that purports to capture life. His books on Bech, too, show us a writer in his prime, and they have the virtue of permitting him to write in the character and mind of someone like himself, although very dissimilar in certain ways, rather than constraining him to have to imagine the consciousness of a less well-educated, less privileged Middle-American. Finally, his recent writing, although continuing in veins he opened earlier, continues to surprise and please their reader.
—Carol Simpson Stern
"Updike, John (Hoyer)." Contemporary Novelists. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 29, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/updike-john-hoyer
"Updike, John (Hoyer)." Contemporary Novelists. . Retrieved April 29, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/updike-john-hoyer
Updike, John Hoyer
"Updike, John Hoyer." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 29, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/updike-john-hoyer
"Updike, John Hoyer." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved April 29, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/updike-john-hoyer