• Birth—March 18, 1932
• Where—Reading, Pennsylvania, USA
• Death—January 27, 2009
• Where—Danvers, Massachusetts
• Education—A.B., Harvard University; also studied at the
Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art in Oxford, England
• Awards—National Book Award for The Centaur, 1964;
Pulitzer Prizer, National Book Critics Circle Award, and
National Book Award for Rabbit Is Rich, 1982; Pulitzer Prize
and National Book Critics Circle Award for Rabbit at Rest,
With an uncommonly varied oeuvre that includes poetry, criticism, essays, short stories, and novels, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner John Updike has helped to change the face of late-20th-century American literature.
Born in Reading, Pennsylvania, Updike graduated summa cum laude from Harvard in 1954. Following a year of study in England, he joined the staff of The New Yorker, establishing a relationship with the magazine that continues to this day. Since 1957, he has lived in two small towns in Massachusetts that have inspired the settings for several of his stories.
In 1958, Updike's first collection of poetry was published. A year later, he made his fiction debut with The Poorhouse Fair. But it was his second novel, 1960's Rabbit, Run, that forged his reputation and introduced one of the most memorable characters in American fiction. Former small-town basketball star Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom struck a responsive chord with readers and critics alike and catapulted Updike into the literary stratosphere.
Updike would revisit Angstrom in 1971, 1981, and 1990, chronicling his hapless protagonist's jittery journey into undistinguished middle age in three melancholy bestsellers: Rabbit Redux, Rabbit Is Rich, and Rabbit at Rest. A concluding novella, "Rabbit Remembered," appears in the 2001 story collection Licks of Love.
Although autobiographical elements appear in the "Rabbit" books, Updike's true literary alter ego is not Harry Angstrom but Harry Bech, a famously unproductive Jewish-American writer who stars in his own story cycle. In between—indeed, far beyond—his successful series, Updike has gone on to produce an astonishingly diverse string of novels. In addition, his criticism and short fiction remain popular staples of distinguished literary publications.
• Updike first became entranced by reading when he was a young boy growing up on an isolated farm in Pennsylvania. Afflicted with psoriasis and a stammer, he escaped from his into mystery novels.
• He decided to attend Harvard University because he was a big fan of the school's humor magazine, The Harvard Lampoon.
• Updike has basically won every major literary prize in America, including the Guggenheim Fellow, the Rosenthal Award, the National Book Award in Fiction, the O. Henry Prize, the American Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Union League Club Abraham Lincoln Award, the National Arts Club Medal of Honor, and the National Medal of the Arts. (Author bio from Barnes & Noble.)
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