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John Updike
John Updike juggles three apples in Ipswich, Massachusetts, September 1966.

Truman Moore//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images
John Updike, (1932-...), is an American author of novels, short stories, essays, and poetry. Updike became noted for his elaborate, lyrical prose style. He served as a staff writer for THE NEW YORKER magazine from 1955 to 1957 and built his literary reputation as a frequent contributor to THE NEW YORKER.

Much of Updike's fiction explores the superficial but seductive materialism he sees in middle-class American life. Typical Updike characters are self-absorbed, guilt-ridden, and obsessed with their own unimportance and the prospect of their death. They relieve their anxieties through marital unfaithfulness, but this fails to help them in their search for spiritual salvation. These characters appear in such novels as A MONTH OF SUNDAYS (1975) and MARRY ME (1976).

In the novel COUPLES (1968) and the stories collected in MUSEUMS AND WOMEN (1972), Updike dramatized the disintegrating morals and marriages in several suburban families. The autobiographical stories in TOO FAR TO GO (1979) narrate the course of the Maple family from newlywed happiness to divorce.

Updike's first popular work, RABBIT, RUN (1960), is a novel about Rabbit Angstrom, a former high school basketball star bewildered by family responsibilities. In RABBIT REDUX (1971), Rabbit confronts such issues of the late 1960s as drug use, racial violence, and the Vietnam War. RABBIT IS RICH (1981) portrays Rabbit in middle age, wealthy but spiritually unfulfilled. RABBIT IS RICH won the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Updike also won the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for RABBIT AT REST (1990), the fourth novel in the series, which describes Rabbit's retirement. Updike continued the story in the short novel RABBIT REMEMBERED, which was published in the short story collection LICKS OF LOVE (2000).

Updike wrote several related stories about a minor novelist named Henry Bech. These stories were collected in BECH: A BOOK (1970), BECH IS BACK (1982), and BECH AT BAY (1998).

Updike was born on March 18, 1932, in Shillington, Pennsylvania. His short stories published from 1953 to 1975 were collected in JOHN UPDIKE: THE EARLY STORIES (2004). Updike's other novels include THE CENTAUR (1963), THE COUP (1978), THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK (1984), ROGER'S VERSION (1986), S. (1988), MEMORIES OF THE FORD ADMINISTRATION (1992), IN THE BEAUTY OF THE LILIES (1996), GERTRUDE AND CLAUDIUS (2000), and VILLAGES (2004). His essays on art were collected in JUST LOOKING (1989) and STILL LOOKING (2005). His other essays and nonfiction were collected in ASSORTED PROSE (1965), PICKED UP PIECES (1975), HUGGING THE SHORE (1983), ODD JOBS (1991), and MORE MATTER (1999). Updike's poems have been published in COLLECTED POEMS: 1953-1993. SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS (1989) is a book of memoirs. Updike edited THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES OF THE CENTURY (1999).

Arthur M. Saltzman, Ph.D., Professor of English, Missouri Southern State College.

From THE WORLD BOOK ENCYCLOPEDIA © 2007 World Book, Inc. By permission of the publisher. Visit World Book Encyclopedia for more information on John Updike and related subjects.

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