The Other John Updike: Poems/Short Stories/Prose/Play

The Other John Updike: Poems/Short Stories/Prose/Play

The Other John Updike: Poems/Short Stories/Prose/Play

The Other John Updike: Poems/Short Stories/Prose/Play

Excerpt

The phrase "the other John Updike" refers not to a hidden side of the author's personality but to a substantial segment of his achievement which is generally overlooked. Although Updike the novelist has been a renowned figure on the American literary scene since 1959, Updike the short story writer, poet, essayist, and dramatist lacks recognition. This situation might not matter if the tales, poems, essays, and play were a minor part of his career, a kind of busywork designed to fill the time between publication of his latest novel and preparation for the next. But such is not the case for an author who in addition to nine novels has also published, as of this writing, five collections of stories, four books of poems, two large books of prose, and one closet drama. Updike takes his non-novel writing seriously.

In offering the first sustained study of the other Updike, I hope to suggest a shape to his accomplishment thus far and to discuss his changing use of techniques, moods, and subjects. I am not arguing that his lesser known work is more important than the novels (or vice versa), but I would like to encourage attention to a body of art which merits examination.

I am aware that readers who attempt to keep up with the long career of John Updike face a time-consuming task: He is among the most prolific of contemporary American authors. To read the canon of a writer of such seriousness and sensitivity requires energy and enthusiasm. I also understand that readers who attempt to write about the long career of John Updike face the possibility of reply: He apparently does not take kindly to some evaluations of his work. To comment on the achievement of an author with spirited opinions . . .

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