John Updike’s memoirs consist of six Emersonian essays that together trace the inner shape of the life, up to the age of fifty-five, of a relatively fortunate American male. The author has attempted, his foreword states, “to treat this life, this massive datum which happens to be mine, as a specimen life, representative in its odd uniqueness of all the oddly unique lives in this world.” In the service of this metaphysical effort, he has been hair-raisingly honest, matchlessly precise, and self-effacingly humorous. He takes the reader beyond self-consciousness, and beyond self-importance, into sheer wonder at the miracle of existence.
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John Updike was born in Shillington, Pennsylvania, in 1932. He graduated from Harvard College in 1954 and spent a year in Oxford, England, at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. From 1955 to 1957 he was a member of the staff of The New Yorker. His novels have won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Rosenthal Foundation Award, and the William Dean Howells Medal. In 2007 he received the Gold Medal for Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. John Updike died in January 2009.From Publishers Weekly:
Updike's memoirit is by no means an autobiography, but rather, as the title brilliantly suggests, a thoughtful communing with past selvesis, as expected, wonderfully written. It is also disarmingly frank about certain aspects of the writer's life. He seems, for instance, to have suffered an unusual number of physical and psychosomatic liabilities: psoriasis (which he attempted to alleviate by soaking himself in Caribbean sun and eventually by living in Ipswich, Mass., where he could sunbathe in the dunes); stuttering, less than chronic but anxiously erratic; and crippling bouts of asthma. Updike writes of them with extraordinary and thoughtful intensity. He recalls also, tenderly, his hometown in Pennsylvania, his parents, and later, at exhaustive length and detail, a coterie of Updikes, seemingly every one who ever lived. He also talks of his politics (he was unfashionably a centrist on Vietnam) and the ways in which God permeates his life. About what one suspects has probably been a very lively sex life he throws out only occasional hintswhile admitting to failures as father and husband. Above all, he emerges as a most profoundly committed writer: "To be in print was to be saved. And to this moment a day when I have produced nothing printable . . . is a day lost and damned." BOMC and QPBC alternates.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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