John Updike (John Hoyer Updike) Biography
(1932– ), (John Hoyer Updike), New Yorker, The Same Door, Pigeon Feathers, Too Far To Go
American novelist, born in Shillington, Pennsylvania, educated at Harvard. Updike worked for the New Yorker, where many of his short stories appeared before their collection and publication in such volumes as The Same Door (1959), Pigeon Feathers (1962), Too Far To Go (1979), The Beloved (1982), Trust Me (1987), and, more recently, The Afterlife and Other Stories (1994). His first novel, Poorhouse Fair (1959), develops around a single day upon which the inmates of a county poorhouse are allowed to host a fair for local citizens, and focuses on the tension between a patient and an administrator. After The Magic Flute (1962) came The Centaur (1963), which presents the dual narratives of the realistic memories of Peter Caldwell's student days, and an adaptation of the Greek tale of Chiron the centaur. The companion volume, On the Farm (1965), focuses on a middle-aged son's attempts to come to terms with a difficult parent. Couples (1968) is a scrutiny of marriage which focuses on the religious crisis and womanizing of Piet Hanema; in an analysis of affluent American suburbia, the novel considers whether the physical and sexual can replace the strength lost by a decline in faith. Marry Me: A Romance (1970) provides a similar scrutiny by focusing on the life of Jerry Conant. It is, however, with two sequences that Updike's major work has been achieved: The Rabbit Tetralogy, comprising Rabbit Run (1960), Rabbit Redux (1971), Rabbit Is Rich (1981; Pulitzer Prize), and Rabbit at Rest (1990; Pulitzer Prize), and the Bech sequence, Bech: A Book (1970) and Bech Is Back (1982), which provides a comic portrait of an American writer caught between desiring recognition and wanting to be left alone. Among his other novels are Bottom's Dream (1969), The Coup (1978), the trilogy Month of Sundays (1975), Roger's Version (1986), and S (1988), a contemporary treatment of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, Brother Grasshopper (1990), and Brazil (1994). His bestknown work is probably The Witches of Eastwick (1984), a profoundly satirical novel in which the inhabitants of a small New England town receive a visitation from a character who may well be the devil incarnate. Among his collections of verse are The Carpentered Hen and Other Tame Creatures (1958), Seventy Poems (1963), Telephone Poles and Other Poems (1963), The Angels (1968), Tossing and Turning (1977), Spring Trio (1982), Jester's Dragon (1984), and Taming Nature (1985), poems which frequently celebrate language in comic verse. His essays have made a further analysis of American marriage and of domestic and family life, among other subjects, and have appeared in On Meeting Authors (1968), Picked up Pieces (1975), Hugging the Shore (1983), Emersonianism (1984), and Just Looking: Essays on Art (1989).