- Hardcover: 576 pages
- Publisher: Harper; 1st edition (April 8, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0061896454
- ISBN-13: 978-0061896453
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (145 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #271,741 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Updike Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 8, 2014
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An Amazon Best Book of the Month, April 2014: Especially with fiction, It’s often useful to separate artists from their art, to assume that a novel, or an entire body of work, isn’t thinly veiled autobiography. Updike, Adam Begley’s exhaustive and revealing account of the American master’s life, begs us to reconsider that doctrine. Detailed yet readable, it goes far beyond describing the chronology of this unsurprisingly complex (and often paradoxical) character, layering on the lit crit where John Updike’s real life bled into his novels. Essential for admirers and illuminating for anyone with an interest in literature, Updike already merits consideration as one of the best biographies of 2014. --Jon Foro
A keen appreciation for literary criticism is a prerequisite for reader interest in this thoroughly researched and rigorously presented biography of one of the most honored and respected American writers of the twentieth century. Updike was the last of the Renaissance men, at home in all fields of writing. His novels and short stories dominate his canon, but poetry and literary and art criticism did not take backseats in terms of the intelligence and writerly skills he brought to such endeavors. Updike certainly was multidimensional, and his long life and distinguished career attest to an unwavering focus on achieving distinctiveness in his writing. To that end, he gathered as fodder the details of the environs in which he lived, namely Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, and all the subtleties of personality he could discern in the people who inhabited those locales with him, even close family members. It is Begley’s primary goal to stitch Updike’s writing to the realities of his existence. He does so meaningfully but too often intrusively, at the expense of a smoothly flowing pursuit of the events in Updike’s life. Nevertheless, this is an important view of a giant literary figure. High-Demand Backstory: A national media, radio, and print campaign and a social-networking campaign on Goodreads will be part of the publicity campaign to promote this major biography. --Brad Hooper
Top Customer Reviews
Following Begley, Updike's writing, with occasional exceptions, might usefully be characterized as a long-term ethnography of himself. Whatever he was doing, from having sex to planting a vegetable garden to putting up storm windows, Updike maintained an essential detachment, enabling him to observe himself and how he felt even when fully engaged in the activity at hand. Whether his tasks were exotic, mundane, dully commonplace, or fraught with a disparate multitude of other feeling and ideas, he retained his role as an observer.
This same capacity for non-stop observation and internal documentation enabled Updike to become keenly adept at describing his physical environment in remarkably fine detail.Read more ›
It was at Harvard, however, that Updike developed his lifelong talent for role-playing. He loved to be the focus of attention, especially among those kind of societies which hitherto had only been available to students from privileged backgrounds. He was certainly not backward about coming forward; and it was this pushiness that helped him achieve his dream of becoming a full-time author.Read more ›
Begley's exemplary biography of Updike is filled with detail that I'm happy to add to my awareness:
Updike wrote his first story at age eight. As an adult, he wrote of his mother's Remington typewriter: "I still carry within me my happiness when, elevated by the thickness of some books to the level of my mother's typewriter, I began to type the keyboard and saw the perfect letter-forms leap up on the paper rolled around the platen."
After Harper rejects THE POORHOUSE FAIR, Updike is encouraged to submit it to Knopf, which then becomes his career-long publisher. Begley describes Alfred A. Knopf as "a vibrant character: portly with Burnside whiskers and proud of his sartorial flair -- he favored brightly colored shirts and vivid neckties. Updike described him as a cross between a Viennese emperor and a Barbary pirate."
In 1962 Updike taught a summer writing class at Harvard. A student recalls "the day Updike came in and read with mock gravity a letter from the Tootsie Roll company sent to him because he had mentioned the candy in RABBIT RUN.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Begley's biography of America's greatest prose stylist presents his life in the context of his major novels, notably the Rabbit series, the Eastwick witches, and the... Read morePublished 1 month ago by George Cummins
This is an interesting look at Updike's life. What I found most unique was the dichotomy of a kind of familial normalcy coupled with his longevity atop the literary world and his... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Kyle Berryhill
Fabulous read! It is information packed and talks about so many of his books.Published 6 months ago by Barbara
I loved to listen to Updike. Interviews on Charlie Rose and so on. His command of English language was superb. Of course she was great writer. But not quite for me. Read morePublished 7 months ago by A. Milrud
Begley presents a deservingly complicated Updike, one who is portrayed almost made to fill his role as a documentarian of midcentury upper class life, in addition to dipping his... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Mike
Excellent presentation on Updike's life. Very good critical analysis of his prose and poetry. Overall, a very satisfying biography of an important American author. Well written.Published 10 months ago by Linda S. Peterson
Updike was much more than the darling of The New Yorker, and much more than the sum of his extra-marital affairs. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Susannah L. Sulzman