Updike is the first full-fledged biography of the prolific author, but it is not an exhaustive chronological account of the author’s comings and goings, nor does it document every inch of his vast body of work. Instead, Adam Begley zeroes in selectively on the novels, stories, poems, and essays that make Updike fascinating as a man and as a writer. Begley explores Updike’s life through the lens of the places that shaped him: his Berks County, Pennsylvania childhood; his Harvard education; his brief foray into life in New York; his extensive travel abroad; and his family and later years in small Massachusetts towns.
Central to Begley’s portrait is the degree to which Updike’s own tumultuous personal life, which included two marriages and a number of affairs, was reflected in his fiction. The result is a biography that calls on Begley’s gift for literary criticism to delve deeply into the beloved works—from Couples to The Witches of Eastwick to the Rabbit novels—that reveal Updike as both a writer and a man. In these pages, Updike comes to life as a complex character, full of contradictions: a gentle man with a vicious wit, a gregarious charmer who was ruthlessly competitive.
Adam Begley was the books editor for The New York Observer from 1996 to 2009. He has been a Guggenheim fellow and a fellow at the Leon Levy Center for Biography at the CUNY Graduate Center. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, The New York Times Magazine, The Guardian, the London Review of Books, and many other publications.