John Updike: Contribution as American Novelist

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      John Updike (1932-2009) was a novelist, short story writer and poet. Born in Shillington, Pennsylvania, and educated at Harvard, his early work was a collection of short stories entitled The Same Door (1959). Like Cheever, Updike he is also regarded as a writer of social manners, with his suburban settings, domestic themes, reflections, of ennui and wastefulness, and, particularly, his fictional locales on the eastern seaboard, in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

      Updike is the best known for his four Rabbit books, depictions of the life of a man - Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom - through the ebbs and flows of his existence across four decades of American social and political his story. Rabbit, Run (1960) is a mirror of the 1950s with Angstrom an aimless, disaffected young husband. Rabbit Redeaux (1971) - spotlighting the counterculture of the 1960s - finds Angstrom still without a clear goal or purpose or viable escape route from humaneness. The final volume, Rabbit at Rest (1990), glimpses Angstrom’s reconciliation with life, and inadvertent death, against the backdrop of the 1980s. Among Updike’s other novels are The Centaur (1963), Couples (1968), and Bech: A Book (1970). He possesses the most brilliant style of any writer today, and his short stories offer scintillating examples of its range and inventiveness. The collections include The Music School (1966) Museums and Women (1972), Too Far To Go (1979), and Problems (1979). He has also written several volumes of poetry and essays. In Rabbit Is Rich (1981), Harry has become prosperous through an inheritance against the landscape of the wealthy self-centeredness of the 1970s as the Vietnam era declines.

      Updike, later novels are The Witches of Eastwick (1982) in which the Devil materializes in a small new England town as a womanizing bachelor. Roger’s Version (1986) is about the interpenetration of physics and religion. Brazil (1994) is the story of doomed lovers talking place over three decades in modern Brazil: In the Beauty of the Lilies (1996) is about the multi-generational American family; Seek My Face (2002) is the narrative of a talented female painter and her difficult marriages to male artists who have attained far greater fame then she; Villages (2004) follows the life story of its ‘Everyman’ hero, Owen Mackenzie. He has also some later collections of short stories - A Month of Sundays (1975), Marry Me (1976), Trust Me (1987) The After-life and Other Stories (1995) and Licks of Love (2002). Also he wrote some interesting books for children and criticism.

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