New Nonfiction: Updike – Adam Begley

I’ve been getting publicity flashes pretty much every day with a new media outlet ling up to cover this biography. And it makes sense: In many ways John Updike (along with John Cheever and Philip Roth) caught the zeitgeist of late 20th century upper middle class life (especially if you happened to be a white guy. J) Author Begley is a literary critic and is well-equipped to show Updike’s place in recent literary history and influence on the cultural conversation.

The media line-up started back in the winter when Updike was included in USA Today’s Winter Books Preview. There will be a first serial to New York magazine. NPR’s Weekend Edition and the Boston Globe will have interviews. Review coverage is coming in the NYT, WSJ, the Chicago Tribune, AP, Vogue, NYTBR, New Yorker, SF Chronicle, Washington Post, Details, Vanity Fair, Harper’s and GQ.

“Begley seamlessly weaves biography and critical analysis throughout his book, much as Updike himself blurred autobiography and fiction. Updike is a monumental treatment of a towering American writer.”
— The New York Observer

[T]his comprehensive account from literary critic Begley draws on deep research and interviews with the author and his circle to chart his early influences…. In addition to his own astute observations, Begley (whose father was a Harvard classmate of Updike’s) marshals revealing commentary by Updike’s contemporaries, like college roommate and future historian Christopher Lasch, who discuss the hesitations and insecurities hounding him. Begley devotes hefty chapters to Updike’s long relationship with the New Yorker, as well as the fame-making, family-growing Ipswich years from whence came Rabbit, Run. The book limns the conflicted emotional makeup beneath its subject’s polished public persona, detailing his tenuous relationship with the WASP establishment, his restless sexual infidelities, and his alienation from 1960s counterculture. At the same time, Updike is revealed to have no great interior tumult on a par with that of his troubled alter ego, Harry Angstrom. Indeed, readers will see in Begley’s Updike an exceptionally gifted, but in many ways mainstream, American man.”
Publishers Weekly

“Adam Begley’s Updike is a model of what a literary biography should be: rich with penetrating insights not only about the life but also about the work. It will enthrall long-time Updike fans and help create generations of new ones.”
— Francine Prose

Updike (9780061896453) by Adam Begley. $29.99 hardcover. 4/8/14 on sale.

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