writing john updike

140428_r24941_p465Louis Menand at The New Yorker:

Updike’s longtime friend Joyce Carol Oates has published more books than he did. His admirer Philip Roth has won more prizes and awards. (Roth has accumulated something like fifty-five to date; Updike racked up more than thirty, including the Bad Sex in Fiction Lifetime Achievement Award, in 2008, an honor that has thus far eluded Roth.) But Updike acquired, early on, a singular reputation for effortless virtuosity and steady professional recognition.

He began as a prodigy—in his nineteen months as a staff writer, The New Yorkerpublished eighty items by him—and he somehow remained one. His style never chastened or mellowed or became grand with age. He was forever the wise boy. Even after he had published all those books and won all those prizes, he still radiated precocity.

All of which makes him a challenge for a biographer. Updike spent almost his entire life writing; he had very few professional tribulations; and whatever personal adventures he had, no matter how private, he turned into fiction.

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