Essays and Criticism
By John Updike
(Random House Trade Paperbacks, Paperback, 9780345499004, 736pp.)
Publication Date: September 30, 2008
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“A drop of truth, of lived experienced, glistens in each.” This is how John Updike modestly described his nonfiction pieces, of which Due Considerations is perhaps his most varied, stylish, and personal collection. Here Updike reflects on such writers as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry James, Don DeLillo, A. S. Byatt, Colson Whitehead, and Margaret Atwood. He visits China, goes to art exhibitions, provides a whimsical and insightful list of “Ten Epochal Moments in the American Libido,” and shares his thoughts on the fall of the Twin Towers, which he witnessed from a tenth-floor apartment in Brooklyn. John Updike was always more than simply one of America’s most acclaimed novelists; he was also, as the Los Angeles Times noted in appraising this volume, “one of the best essayists and critics this country has produced.”
John Updike was born in Shillington, Pennsylvania, in 1932. He graduated from Harvard College in 1954 and spent a year in Oxford, England, at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. From 1955 to 1957 he was a member of the staff of The New Yorker. His novels have won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Rosenthal Foundation Award, and the William Dean Howells Medal. In 2007 he received the Gold Medal for Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. John Updike died in January 2009.
“Updike’s scope is rather breathtaking. . . . When I do not know the subject well—as in his finely illustrated art reviews of Bruegel, Dürer and Goya—I learn much from what Updike has to impart. When he considers an author I love, like Proust or Czeslaw Milosz, I often find myself appreciating familiar things in a new way.”—Christopher Hitchens, The New York Times Book Review
“If the printed word disappeared, a future race could reconstruct a significant body of nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature from Updike’s work alone. . . . He writes to converse with us on a high plane but in simple language, often stately and sometimes dazzling.”—Chicago Sun-Times
“Updike knows more about literature than almost anyone. . . . He’s beyond knowledgeable—he makes Google look wanting.”—Baltimore Sun