By Adam Begley
HarperTorch, Hardcover, 9780061896453, 558pp.
Publication Date: April 8, 2014
In this eye-opening, authoritative biography, Adam Begley offers a captivating portrait of John Updike, the author who saw himself as a literary spy in small-town and suburban America, and 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 on in-depth archival research as well as interviews with the writer's family, friends, and colleagues, 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 bestselling novel Couples.
With a sharp critical sensibility, 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.
Candid, intimate, and utterly absorbing, Updike is a masterful biography of a national treasure whose writing continues to resonate like no one else's.
Adam Begley says Updike created an everyman in his Rabbit book series, and inhabited him fully, "allowing that everyman's senses to be totally open to the American experience." More at NPR.org
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