John Updike is perhaps America's most versatile, prolific, and distinguished man of letters of the second half of the twentieth century, having created a literary oeuvre that includes fiction, poetry, essays, criticism, a play, children's books, memoirs, and other prose. His first published short story and poem appeared in The New Yorker in 1954; he joined the staff in 1955 and has continued to publish in that magazine throughout his career. Since his first book in 1958, few years have gone by in which he has not published at least one volume, as well as an impressive number of book reviews, short stories, poems, art reviews, and topical and personal essays. His reputation rests largely on his fiction, for which he has won numerous prestigious awards, prizes, and recognitions. His subject matter is closely linked to his personal experience of small-town, middle-class life in America from the time of World War II through the beginning of the twenty-first century. Much of his early work is based on memories of people, places, and events associated with his childhood and youth in southeastern Pennsylvania, and works of his mature period focus largely on the themes of marriage, adultery, religious faith, and family life. Despite occasional forays into non-American settings and past and future time frames, Updike's fiction for the most part reflects the culture, conflicts, and concerns of his readers' American time and place. His recent work often deals with a return to or reflection on the personal, historical, or literary past as it has created the present and is interpreted and transformed by a contemporary consciousness.Less
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