In this eye-opening, authoritative biography, Adam Begley offers a captivating portrait of John Updike, the author who saw himself as a literary spy in small-town and suburban America, and who dedicated himself to the task of transcribing "middleness with all its grits, bumps, and anonymities."
Updike explores the stages of the writer's pilgrim's progress: his beloved home turf of Berks County, Pennsylvania; his escape to Harvard; his brief, busy working life as the golden boy at The New Yorker; his family years in suburban Ipswich, Massachusetts; his extensive travel abroad; and his retreat to another Massachusetts town, Beverly Farms, where he remained until his death in 2009. Drawing on in-depth archival research as well as interviews with the writer's family, friends, and colleagues, Begley explores how Updike's fiction was shaped by his tumultuous personal life--including his enduring religious faith, his two marriages, and his firsthand experience of the "adulterous society" he was credited with exposing in the bestselling novel Couples.
With a sharp critical sensibility, Begley probes Updike's best-loved works--from Pigeon Feathers to The Witches of Eastwick to the Rabbit tetralogy--and reveals a surprising and deeply complex character fraught with contradictions: a kind man with a vicious wit, a gregarious charmer who was ruthlessly competitive, a private person compelled to spill his secrets on the printed page.
Candid, intimate, and utterly absorbing, Updike is a masterful biography of a national treasure whose writing continues to resonate like no one else's.