March 18 ~  Right or Better John Updike Novels

"Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right or better."
~ John Updike

John Updike

Prolific novelist John Hoyer Updike (1932-2009) was born on this day and raised in Shillington, Pennsylvania. He was an only child who read passionately and enjoyed writing and drawing.

At Harvard, he edited the Harvard Lampoon, graduated summa cum laude, then honed his writing craft while on staff at The New Yorker.

"Write steadily, even shyly," he advised, "in the spirit of those medieval carvers who so fondly sculpted the undersides of choir seats."

Updike wrote fiction about ordinary people living ordinary lives.

Following his first novel, Poorhouse Fair (1959), he created his remarkable character Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom in Rabbit, Run (1960). He went on to write three more "Rabbit" novels, Rabbit Redux (1971) and the Pulitzer-winning Rabbit is Rich (1981) and Rabbit at Rest (1990).

The writer of short stories, essays, poetry, and criticism, Updike observed, "How quickly we become history while trying to be news."

L.A. Times critic Katherine Stephen said Updike "had earned an imposing stance on the literary landscape." With skill and substance, he created precise metaphors and vivid prose. With pleasure and provocation, he captured life's mini moments in fiction.

"Art is like baby shoes. When you coat them with gold, they can no longer be worn," Updike once said.

With fiction that revealed autobiographical elements, Updike explored the challenges of middle-class America. His troubled characters are self-obsessed and irresponsible as they search for life's meaning amid divorce, infidelity, and questionable morality.

"His prose," praised writer Robert Peltier, "sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph, does read beautifully, perhaps more beautifully than anyone writing today."

In Self-Consciousness, his 1989 memoir, Updike reflected, "I have the persistent sensation, in my life and art, that I am just beginning."

When you invest your heart, expect miracles.