January 28, 2009

John Updike Passes Away

Here's the article in the New York Daily News:
John Updike, the Pulitzer Prize winning author, who gave prominent voice to the angst of white men and the changes in sexual mores in post war America died Tuesday at 76.
His publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, annouced that Updike, who lived in Beverly Farms, Mass., died of lung cancer.
Updike’s best-selling novels about Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom are often considered the quintessential portrait of the American male in the late 20th century.
In addition to his fiction, Updike wrote literary essays, poetry and art criticism as well as children’s books. For much of his career he turned out a book a year. In addition to the four novels in the Rabbit series (two of which won Pulitzer Prizes), he wrote three novels about a blocked Jewish writer named Bech, starting with "Bech, A Book."
Updike’s first runaway bestseller was the 1968 "Couples," a look at the new, uninhibited sexuality of suburban America. His fiction ranged far beyond the contemporary middle class life of his best known novels though.
He wrote about post-colonial Africa in "The Coup" (1978), the Tristan myth in the 1994 "Brazil" and the failed presidency of his fellow Pennsylvanian James Buchanan in the 1974 play "Buchanan Dying" and the 1992 novel "Memoirs of the Ford Administration."
His last novel to win widespread acclaim was his "prequel" to "Hamlet," the 2000 "Gertrude and Claudius."
John Hoyer Updike was born March 18, 1932 in the northeastern Pennsylvania town of Reading. He spent most of his early years in nearby Shillington. His mother, who had wanted to be a writer herself, encouraged her son to write.
Updike applied to Harvard because he wanted to write for its humor magazine, the Harvard Lampoon.
He received a full scholarship and, as a senior, was president of the Lampoon, to which he had initially contributed cartoons.
During that academic year in England with his first wife, Mary Pennington, 1954-55, their first daughter was born. While there he also met E.B. and Katharine White, influential figures at The New Yorker, in whose pages he had already published a poem and a short story.
The Whites encouraged him to apply for a staff position, which he received.
On returning to the States, he spent two years in New York, working as a staff writer at The New Yorker. On the birth of a son, in 1957, he decided to forego a steady salary, work on fiction full time and move his family to Massachusetts.
His fictions and reviews have frequently appeared in the magazine over the years.
He settled in Ipswich, which became the model for the town in "Couples."
He lived there until 1974, when he separated from his wife and moved to Boston, where he taught at Boston University. In 1977 he married Martha Ruggles Bernhard.
Two of his novels were turned into movies -- "Rabbit, Run," which starred James Caan, and the 1984 "The Witches of Eastwick," which starred Jack Nicholson, Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer.
Most recently he published a sequel "The Widows of Eastwick."
He received the National Medal of Art from President George H.W. Bush in 1989 and the National Medal for the Humanities from President George W. Bush in 2003.
Very few writers have received both these awards.
-Rest in Peace...

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