John Hoyer Updike (March 18, 1932 – January 27, 2009) was an American novelist, poet, short story writer, art critic, and literary critic.
Updike’s most famous work is his Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom series (the novels Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; Rabbit Is Rich; Rabbit At Rest; and the novella “Rabbit Remembered”), which chronicles Rabbit’s life over the course of several decades, from young adulthood to his death. Both Rabbit Is Rich (1981) and Rabbit At Rest (1990) received the Pulitzer Prize. Updike is one of only three authors (the others were Booth Tarkington and William Faulkner) to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction more than once. He published more than twenty novels and more than a dozen short story collections, as well as poetry, art criticism, literary criticism and children’s books. Hundreds of his stories, reviews, and poems appeared in The New Yorker, starting in 1954. He also wrote regularly for The New York Review of Books.
Describing his subject as “the American small town, Protestant middle class,” Updike was well recognized for his careful craftsmanship, his unique prose style, and his prolificity. He wrote on average a book a year. Updike populated his fiction with characters who “frequently experience personal turmoil and must respond to crises relating to religion, family obligations, and marital infidelity.” His fiction is distinguished by its attention to the concerns, passions, and suffering of average Americans; its emphasis on Christian theology; and its preoccupation with sexuality and sensual detail. His work has attracted a significant amount of critical attention and praise, and he is widely considered to be one of the great American writers of his time. Updike’s highly distinctive prose style features a rich, unusual, sometimes arcane vocabulary as conveyed through the eyes of “a wry, intelligent authorial voice” that extravagantly describes the physical world, while remaining squarely in the realist tradition. He famously described his own style as an attempt “to give the mundane its beautiful due.
How beautiful to think
that each of these clean secretaries
at night, to please her lover, takes
a fountain into her mouth
and lets her insides, drenched with seed,
flower into her landscapes:
meadows sprinkled with baby’s breath,
hoarse twiggy woods, birds dipping, a multitude
of skies containing clouds, plowed earth stinking
of its upturned humus, and small farms each
with a silver silo.