William Deresiewicz at The New Republic:
He knew who he was, and he knew who he wanted to be: an unembarrassed, unreconstructed middle-American. He shied away from nothing that he saw or learned in modern art or thought—not then, not ever—but the self-assurance that he carried with him out of Berks County made him proof against adopting the attitudes they entail. Atheism, alienation, and angst; elitism and cosmopolitanism; aesthetic austerity and experimentalism; political and spiritual extremism: these were not for him. Updike’s life and work are testaments to the idea that mid-American values, beliefs, and sensibilities are adequate to address and interpret modern experience. The conviction made him, and to many it has made him unforgivable.
Ipswich was the place where Updike did his finest work, and also where he found, reveled in, and immortalized the “adulterous society” of young professionals at play in the prosperity of Ike and JFK, the “post-pill paradise” of Tarbox and Couples. The novel’s magic circle of ten marriages (and about that many liaisons) is modeled, Begley tells us, on the even dozen that composed the Updikes’ little world. Ten of the twelve were adulterous, and all of the former ended in divorce.