Friday, March 18, 2011

This Day in Literary History

On this day in 1932, Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Updike is born in the small town of Shillington, Pennsylvania. The only child of a math teacher father and aspiring writer mother, Updike developed an early love for reading and drawing and won a scholarship to Harvard. He became editor of the famous Harvard Lampoon and married as an undergraduate.

After graduating in 1953, Updike went to England for a year to study art. In England, he met New Yorker writers and editors E.B. and Katherine White, who offered him a job.

Updike worked on staff for the illustrious magazine until 1957, when he quit and moved to Ipswich, Massachusetts, to concentrate on fiction and poetry. He supported his wife and children with contributions to the New Yorker and in 1958 published his first novel, The Poorhouse Fair, to favorable reviews. Two years later, he published Rabbit, Run, considered one of his best novels, about a former high school basketball star named Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom. He wrote a sequel, Rabbit Redux, in 1971 and won Pulitzer Prizes for Rabbit Is Rich (1981) and Rabbit at Rest (1990). Updike's 1968 novel, Couples, detailing the sexual high-jinx of married couples in a small town, topped the bestseller chart for several weeks.

The prolific Updike published some 60 books during his lengthy career, including novels, children's books, poetry, short story collections and non-fiction. He also wrote frequently for magazines. He died of lung cancer on January 29, 2009, at age 76.

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