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John Updike  

John Updike was the author of novels, short stories, poetry and critical essays. He wrote about the tribulations of middle class Americans and their search for salvation.
Last Updated: May 19, 2016 URL: http://pccc.libguides.com/content.php?pid=698447 Print Guide RSS Updates

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John Updike (1932-2009)

 

PCCC Book

Cover Art
John Updike - Bernard F. Rodgers; Salem Press Staff
Call Number: PS 3571 .P4 Z735 2012
ISBN: 9781587658327
Publication Date: 2011-09-01

 

Brief Biography

John Updike was born the only child of middle class parents : his father was a high school science teacher and his mother an aspiring writer.  When he was 13, his family moved to a stone farmhouse on an eighty acre farm near Plowville, Pennsylvania.   He attended a local high school and was an excellent student, receiving a tuition scholarship to Harvard University.  He majored in English at Harvard, wrote for the Harvard Lampoon and drew cartoons.  He graduated summa cum laude in 1954, and married a fellow student.  He and his wife, Mary Pennigton, eventually had four children ( they would later divorce and Updike would remarry).  That same year, he sold a poem and a short story to "The New Yorker" magazine.  He and his wife went to live in England in 1955 where Updike studied at Oxford.   Upon returning home, he worked for "The New Yorker" for nearly two years, before moving to Massachusetts to accomodate his growing family.  He decided to write full time, but never severed his ties to "The New Yorker": over the course of many years, he published  short stories, poems, articles,  and critical essays in that magazine.  One famous article was about Ted Williams's last game as a Red Sox.  An avid golfer, he also wrote about the sport. All told, he published sixty books in his lifetime, including children's books. A highly disciplined person, he wrote about 7 hours a day, 6 days a week.  He never tired of putting pen to paper.  He found his subject matter in the lives of middle class, small town people-those everyday souls struggling with daily life, with marriage, sex, religion and the fear of death-which they knew face us all and which will occur sooner or later.   He was known for his beautiful prose, every word carefully chosen, nothing left to waste.   His poetry, light verse, and his essays on authors, art, religion and other topics filled volumes.  He was a person who just loved to write and over the years, his inkwell never ran dry, in fact it seemed to replenish itself.   He created a character in a series of books: Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom, a former basketball player.  By writing "Rabbit, Run," Rabbit Redux," "Rabbit is Rich." and finally 'Rabbit at Rest," Updike was able to both develop a character and place him in the political and social events of the times.  In 1968, his novel "Couples,"was on the best seller list for over a year and earned Updike a cover story in "Time."

Updike earned a Pulizer Prize in fiction in 1981. He was awarded a second Pulizer Prize for "Rabbit at Rest" in 1991, only the third American to win a second Pulizer Prize in the fiction category.  While Updike may have written about sex, his treatment of the subject was not salacious.    He was a student of Christian theology and a regular churchgoer.  The Jesuit magazine "America" awarded him its Campion Award in 1997 as a "distinguished Christian person of letters."

John Updike wrote almost to the end of his life, forever honing his craft.  He died of lung cancer in 2009. He was 76.

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