Literary Research- The Life and Times
John Updike was born on March 18, 1932 in Reading, Pennsylvania. He was an only child of Wesely and Grace Updike. He was raised in nearby small town of Shillington. His father was a high school science teacher and his mother was an aspiring writer. In her fifties, some of her short stories were published in The New Yorker. For the majority of his childhood, he lived in a house with his parents and grandparents. At the age of thirteen, his family made the move to an 80 acre farmhouse a few miles away from Shillington. Moving to a rural area left Updike isolated and turned to literature for for companionship. “I remember the sofa and the way I’d lie on ...view middle of the document...
But by this time he had two children under the age of ten. The family decided to move to Ipswich, Massachusetts. He would live in Massachusetts for the duration of his life. To support his growing family, he became a full time writer for The New Yorker but did not accept a salaried position. Throughout his life he kept in touch with The New Yorker and often had his works appear in the paper.
Updike has “published twenty-four novels, a play, a memoir, children’s books, and numerous collections of poetry, short stories, and essays and criticism” (Shostak 19). His poetry was humble and included light verse. He gathered inspiration from Ogden Nash’s witty poems in the time period between 1930 and 1940. Nash was a fan of rhyming, "I think in terms of rhyme, and have since I was six years old" One of Nash’s plays, Buchanan take place in Updike’s home town.
Updike has many influences but is most recognized for his fiction. “in his novels and short stories he devoted himself to portraying the lives of ordinary Americans who epitomized the United States in the middle to latter part of the twentieth century”( Shostak 21). Because Shillington was so rural and he lived there for a good bit of his life, the deep sense of place became a fixture in a great deal of his works. Updike’s view of the” ideal” United States is a quiet and simple setting with all events happening in small town scale.
He was most drawn to content that dug deep into “troubled America”. He observed the inner working of families as well as his own. Updike speaks on his view of the middle, “My subject is the American Protestant small-town middle class. I like middles. It is in middles that extremes clash, where ambiguity restlessly rules. Something quite intricate and fierce occurs in homes” (“Can a Nice Novelist”11).
Updike’s explores “the middle” in his earlier stories. For example, Of the Farm, written in 1965 is about a divorced Manhattan advertising executive who occasionally goes to see his mother who lives on an un-kept farm in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania. The story shows the relationship Joey has with his mother and how he feels an array of emotions towards his mother concerning his relationship with her and her relationship with his father. The average American can...