|John Updike (1932)
American novelist, short story writer and poet, internationally known for his novels
Rabbit, Run (1960), Rabbit Redux (1971), Rabbit is Rich (1981), and
Rabbit at Rest (1990). They follow the life of Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom, a star athlete, from his youth through the social and sexual upheavals of the 1960s, to later periods of his life, and to final decline. Updike's oeuvre has been large, consisting of novels, collections of poems, short stories, and essays. He has written a great deal of literary criticism. Updike attended Harvard and majored in English in 1954.
From the age of 23, he supported himself by writing. In 1958 Updike made his debut as a poet with the volume
The Carpentered Hen and other Tame Creatures. Updike's first novel,
The Poorhouse Fair (1959), was about the residents of an old people's home.
The Centaur (1963) used a mythological framework to explore the relationship of a schoolmaster father and his son.
The Coup (1979) was an exotic first-person narration by an ex-dictator of a fictitious African state. Terrorist, Updike's 22nd novel, was about an 18-year-old Islamic extremist, whose critique of American culture is literally deadly. "This kind of friendliness toward death, this feeling that it's not such a big deal to kill or die, is after my generation," Updike said in
Time (June 12, 2005).
The first book about Updike's famous hero, Harry Angstrom, the natural athlete, a sexually magnetic, blue-eyed Swede, ended with the verb "Runs." Updike wrote the book in the present tense, giving it a sort of cinematic quality. In
Rabbit, Redux - Redux is Latin for brought back - Harry is a middle-aged bourgeois, who finds his life shattered by the infidelity of his wife. Updike leaves the reader with a question -- O.K.? The last word in
Rabbit Is Rich was 'His.' Rabbit at Rest, set in the late 1980s, paralleled the decay of society, AIDS-plagued America, and Rabbit's swollen body, his chest pains, and his feeling that there is "nothing under you but black space..."
In his autobiographical piece, 'The Dogwood Tree: A Boyhood', Updike called sex, art, and religion "the three great secret things" in human experience. James Yerkes has defined in his introduction to
John Updike and Religion (2002), a collection of essays dealing with the religious vision of the author, "the religious consciousness in Updike may best be characterized as our sense of an unavoidable, unbearable, and unbelievable Sacred Presence."