Essays and Criticism
Publication Date: September 18, 2012
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Here is the collection of nonfiction pieces that John Updike was compiling when he died in January 2009. It opens with a self-portrait of the writer in winter, a Prospero who, though he fears his most dazzling performances are behind him, reveals himself in every sentence to be in deep conversation with the sources of his magic. It concludes with a moving meditation on a world without religion, without art, and on the difficulties of faith in a disbelieving age. In between are pieces on Peanuts, Mars, and the songs of Cole Porter, a pageant of scenes from early Massachusetts, and a good deal of Updikean table talk. At the heart of the volume are dozens of book reviews from The New Yorker and illustrated art writings from The New York Review of Books. Updike’s criticism is gossip of the highest sort. We will not hear the likes of it again.
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.
Christopher Carduff, the editor of this volume, is a member of the staff of The Library of America.
“For my money . . . the late John Updike was the best American belletrist ever, and Higher Gossip . . . confirms everything I’ve believed about his brilliance, his versatility, and his depth.”—Larry McMurty, Harper’s
“As [Higher Gossip] reminds us, Updike was that rare creature: an all-around man of letters, a literary decathlete who brought to his criticism an insider’s understanding of craft and technique; a first-class appreciator of talent, capable of describing other artists’ work with nimble, pictorial brilliance; an ebullient observer, who could bring to essays about dinosaurs or golf or even the theory of relativity a contagious, boyish sense of wonder.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“A timely reminder of the graceful companionship that Updike offered to his readers—a presence that will be sorely missed.”—The Christian Science Monitor