A masterful, much-anticipated biography of one of the most celebrated figures in American literature: Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Updike - a candid, intimate, and richly detailed look at his life and work.
In this magisterial biography, Adam Begley offers an illuminating portrait of John Updike, the acclaimed novelist, poet, short-story writer, and critic who saw himself as a literary spy in small-town and suburban America, who dedicated himself to the task of transcribing "middleness with all its grits, bumps, and anonymities."
Updike explores the stages of the writer's pilgrim's progress: his beloved home turf of Berks County, Pennsylvania; his escape to Harvard; his brief, busy working life as the golden boy at the New Yorker; his family years in suburban Ipswich, Massachusetts; his extensive travel abroad; and his retreat to another Massachusetts town, Beverly Farms, where he remained until his death in 2009. Drawing from in-depth research as well as interviews with the writer's colleagues, friends, and family, Begley explores how Updike's fiction was shaped by his tumultuous personal life - including his enduring religious faith, his two marriages, and his firsthand experience of the "adulterous society" he was credited with exposing in the best-selling Couples.
With a sharp critical sensibility that lends depth and originality to his analysis, Begley probes Updike's best-loved works - from Pigeon Feathers to The Witches of Eastwick to the Rabbit tetralogy - and reveals a surprising and deeply complex character fraught with contradictions: a kind man with a vicious wit, a gregarious charmer who was ruthlessly competitive, a private person compelled to spill his secrets on the printed page. Updike offers an admiring yet balanced look at this national treasure, a master whose writing continues to resonate like no one else's.
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Waspish about the Eastwick WASP?
- Welsh Mafia
Giving Updike his beautiful due
A must read for Updike fans. Adam Begley has done a fine job of a biography of a man who documented his own life compulsively. It's a fair and clear eyed appraisal of Updike, full of close readings of his work and of the effect his writing had on his own family. It is best about the first half of Updike's life - it seems his second wife guarded access to him for the last 25 years or so. It seems fair on his shortcomings whilst defending him from some unfair criticism. Begley is particularly good at deconstructing the public 'man of letters' persona to give an insight to the man himself. Makes me want to re-read the novels. Looking forward to listening to the Rabbit series this August.