In 1981–82, John Updike turned fifty and published Rabbit Is Rich, the third installment of Updike’s Rabbit chronicle and the tenth novel of his career. The resulting publicity was enormous: a Time cover story; the re-issue of his first book, The Carpentered Hen, originally published in 1958; and three prestigious awards for Rabbit Is Rich—the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and an American Book Award. Add to this list of honors the fact that Updike’s books are the most avidly collected of all contemporary American writing, and one understands the timeliness of a careful analysis of Updike’s novels.
Other critical studies of Updike usually stress one aspect of his writing and thus link his fiction to his interest in religion, or pastoral, or adultery, or art. John Updike’s Novels avoids the thesis approach and evaluates the novels according to what is revealed by a close reading of the texts. Of special interest is Greiner’s overview of the Rabbit chronicle, for Updike has now carried Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom through his fifty-sixth year.
With an analysis of the reception of each novel and a checklist of the various editions, John Updike’s Novels offers a comprehensive overview of the major fiction of one of the few truly important American authors since World War II. It is a natural companion to Grenier’s earlier volume. The Other John Updike: Poems, Stories, Prose, Play also published by Ohio University Press in 1981. Readers who desire an in-depth account of Updike’s long career will find that together the two books treat all of Updike’s major writing through Rabbit Is Rich as well as detail the surprisingly varied reception of his work.
Donald J. Greiner is professor of English and director of graduate studies at the University of South Carolina. He is the author of Comic Terror: The Novels of John Hawkes, Robert Frost: The Poet and His Critics, two monographs on Frost, and numerous scholarly essays. He is also the editor of The Notebook of Stephen Crane, and the two volume Dictionary of Literary Biography: American Poets Since World War II. More info →
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John Updike has won a National Book Award and has earned both critical and popular acclaim. At the moment, his reputation rests largely on his novels, especially Rabbit, Run; The Centaur; Of the Farm; and The Coup. Of his many books, more than half are volumes of poems, stories, essays and reviews, and one play, yet the numerous critical books on Updike concentrate primarily on his long fiction with the result that over one half of his canon is often ignored.
For two spring days in 2001, John Updike visited Cincinnati, Ohio, engaging and charming his audiences, reading from his fiction, fielding questions, sitting for an interview, participating in a panel discussion, and touring the Queen City.Successful writers typically spend a portion of their lives traveling the country to give readings and lectures.
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