January 28, 2009
Prolific Chronicler of Small-Town Angst
From The Washington Post:
John Updike, whose finely polished novels and stories exploring the virtues, vices and spent hopes of America's small towns and suburbs earned him two Pulitzer Prizes and kept him at the pinnacle of the nation's literary life for five decades, died yesterday at a hospice near his home in Beverly Farms, Mass. He was 76 and had lung cancer. Updike was best known for peering into the bedrooms and unquiet minds of suburban couples and small-town entrepreneurs in dozens of novels and stories that mirrored America's march from postwar optimism to the dimming dreams of a chastened generation. His most famous works were probably the quartet of novels about Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom, whose life was a continual search, whether in business or the beds of other men's wives, for the crystallized feeling of joy he had known as a small-town high school basketball star.
Updike was often labeled the bard of suburban adultery -- "a subject which, if I have not exhausted, has exhausted me," he once said -- and many of his early works of fiction were considered scandalously explicit. Updike's reputation as a novelist and a sexual provocateur in print was secured with his novel "Couples," which became a No. 1 bestseller in 1968. The book, which tells the intertwined stories of the longings of five New England couples, landed Updike on the cover of Time magazine under the heading "The Adulterous Society.
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