America's Man of Letters
The first comprehensive critical look at the work, career, and literary reputation of John Updike
By the age of twenty-eight, John Updike had already been published in the three major forms—novel, poem, and short story—he would continue to explore with steadily expanding skill and authority. For the next four decades his literary career would realize itself primarily in these three forms, but also in essays, reviews, and memoirs, and in resourceful commentary on his own work—the stuff of many interviews and prefaces. In this book, William H. Pritchard offers not a biography, but an insightful portrait of the writer and his work.
"Updike could hardly have had a more able champion. Updike: America’s Man of Letters is accessible, balanced, open-minded, free of lit-crit babble and filled with nuanced insight. Drawing on wide learning and extraordinary good sense, Pritchard shows how time and again Updike’s critics have simply closed their eyes to the subtleties of the page. . . . His conclusion—that Updike is ‘never less than an interesting writer, and at his best a major one’—is not self-evident but hard-earned indeed. John Updike should be grateful for the intelligence and even-handed justice of this assessment. And so should we."—Newsday
"A valuable, quietly passionate work. By examining every genre of Updike’s writing—fiction, criticism, memoirs, poetry—comprehensively, keenly, in a style free of academic jargon, Pritchard amply demonstrates Updike’s ‘fearsome articulateness, at all moments, on all subjects, in all forms’; his extraordinary writerly gift of transforming ‘homely’ materials (what Updike characterized as ‘the whole mass of middling, hidden, troubled America’) ‘into radiance’; and his place beside William Dean Howells and Edmund Wilson as a critic ‘committed to speaking with conviction, wit, and authority about the intellectual and moral condition of his native land,’ who relies on ‘nothing more than a cultivated intelligence and assiduous reading.’"—Atlantic Monthly
"If you are serious, you could do a great deal worse than starting off with this extraordinarily nourishing, insightful and readable book by Pritchard—a shining example of commonsense criticism and of the importance of enduringly serious writing."—Baltimore Sun