John Updike, circa 1955
John Updike not only wrote some of the past century's most provocative fiction but also inspired some of its most imaginative criticism—from Nicholson Baker and David Foster Wallace, to name two. Now Adam Begley, the former books editor at the New York Observer, joins in with the first major biography of the author, the juicy yet sensitive Updike (Harper, $35; out April 8).
Updike rendered friends, parents, and partners with cruel clarity—his first wife reacted to the infidelity-drenched Couples by saying it left her feeling "smothered in pubic hair." This allows Begley to use Updike's art as the spadework for an examination of Updike's life while avoiding the tedious this-happened-then-that formula of most bios. From his adulterous affairs to his literary rivalries, all was grist for Updike's mill—and now Begley's. This, as Updike once called book talk, is higher gossip.
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