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Redeemable Bad Guy

Ian Hamilton: Rabbit and Zooey

2 April 1998
Toward the End of Time 
by John Updike.
Hamish Hamilton, 334 pp., £16.99, February 1998, 0 241 13862 0
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Golf Dreams 
by John Updike.
Penguin, 224 pp., £6.99, February 1998, 0 14 026156 7
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... His fiction, in its rather grim bravado, its humour, its morbidity, its wry but persistent hopefulness, matches the shape and tint of present America.’ This was JohnUpdike in 1961, saying of J.D. Salinger what critics since have been saying of JohnUpdike: that here is a novelist uncannily responsive to the ‘personality’, if we can use the word, of his own culture ...

Overflow

Frank Kermode: John Updike

21 January 1999
Beck at Bay: A Quasi-Novel 
by John Updike.
Hamish Hamilton, 241 pp., £16.99, January 1999, 0 241 14027 7
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... That JohnUpdike has a Trollopian fidelity to his characters is evident from the four books of the Rabbit series; this new book is the third of a sequence about the New York Jewish novelist Henry Bech. As it carries ...

Be a lamp unto yourself

John​ Lanchester

5 May 1988
S.: A Novel 
by John Updike.
Deutsch, 244 pp., £10.95, April 1988, 0 233 98255 8
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... Is it possible for a novelist to write too well? This has sometimes seemed to be the case with JohnUpdike, whose ability to evoke physical detail is unmatched. It is a virtue in accordance with his expressedly realist aesthetic. ‘My own style seemed to be a groping and elemental attempt to approximate ...

Caretaker/Pallbearer

James Wolcott: Updike​ should stay at home

1 January 2009
The Widows of Eastwick 
by John Updike.
Hamish Hamilton, 308 pp., £18.99, October 2008, 978 0 241 14427 5
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... JohnUpdike’s unfailing geniality and fluent industry appear to get on a fair number of nerves, of which he’s slyly aware. (Is there anything he isn’t slyly aware of? That foxy grin conceals volumes.) When ...

Batsy

Thomas Karshan: John Updike

31 March 2005
Villages 
by John Updike.
Hamish Hamilton, 321 pp., £17.99, February 2005, 9780241143087
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... Minds have been made up about JohnUpdike. A typical review will begin by grudgingly acknowledging the brilliance of his ‘style’ – as if Updike’s style were a set of dainty curlicues, and not his manner of thought – before complaining about his misogyny, his conservatism, his theological bad faith, the gratuitousness of his language. To ...
2 February 1984
The Oxford Companion to American Literature 
by James Hart.
Oxford, 896 pp., £27.50, November 1983, 0 19 503074 5
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The Modern American Novel 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Oxford, 209 pp., £9.95, April 1983, 0 19 212591 5
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The Literature of the United States 
by Marshall Walker.
Macmillan, 236 pp., £14, November 1983, 0 333 32298 3
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American Fictions 1940-1980: A Comprehensive History and Critical Valuation 
by Frederick Karl.
Harper and Row, 637 pp., £31.50, February 1984, 0 06 014939 6
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Hugging the Shore: Essays and Criticism 
by John Updike.
Deutsch, 919 pp., £21, January 1984, 0 233 97610 8
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... in Philip Roth’s The Professor of Desire, the old woman who claims to have been Kafka’s whore ‘concentrates the tense problem of the modern muse and the sexual prompt of modern art’, or that JohnUpdike is largely concerned with ‘the revelation of form, the moment of aesthetic revelation in the contingencies of life’. Bradbury is just going through the motions, hastening from name to name ...

Arsenals

Nicholas Spice

18 October 1984
On the Perimeter: Caroline Blackwood at Greenham Common 
by Caroline Blackwood.
Heinemann, 113 pp., £5.95, September 1984, 0 434 07468 3
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The Witches of Eastwick 
by John Updike.
Deutsch, 316 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 233 97665 5
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Corrigan 
by Caroline Blackwood.
Heinemann, 279 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 434 07467 5
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According to Mark 
by Penelope Lively.
Heinemann, 218 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 9780434427420
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... issues about the nature of men and women and the nature of nature: On the Perimeter by virtue of a chilling subject-matter fixed with a steady eye, The Witches of Eastwick through the potency of JohnUpdike’s imaginative release. On the Perimeter records what Caroline Blackwood found at Greenham Common and in the town of Newbury, when she visited the nuclear protest encampments there in March ...

Short Cuts

Paul Laity: Hanging out at River Cottage HQ

14 December 2006
... wind turbines and newspaper columns reassuring readers that it’s OK to own a washing machine: a certain version of pastoral is more fashionable than ever. ‘In a time of informational overload,’ JohnUpdike wrote in an introduction to Walden, ‘of clamorously inane and ubiquitous electronic entertainment, and of a fraught, globally challenged and ever more demanding workplace, the urge to build ...

Malfunctioning Sex Robot

Patricia Lockwood: Updike​ Redux

10 October 2019
Novels, 1959-65: ‘The Poorhouse Fair’; ‘Rabbit, Run’; ‘The Centaur’; ‘Of the Farm’ 
by John Updike.
Library of America, 850 pp., £36, November 2018, 978 1 59853 581 5
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... I was hired​ as an assassin. You don’t bring in a 37-year-old woman to review JohnUpdike in the year of our Lord 2019 unless you’re hoping to see blood on the ceiling. ‘Absolutely not,’ I said when first approached, because I knew I would try to read everything, and fail, and spend ...

Gossip in Gilt

James Wood: John Updike’s Licks of Love

19 April 2001
Licks of Love: Short Stories and a Sequel, ‘Rabbit Remembered’ 
by John Updike.
Hamish Hamilton, 368 pp., £16.99, March 2001, 9780241141298
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... It seems to be easier for JohnUpdike to stifle a yawn than to refrain from writing a book. It is generally thought niggardly or envious to complain about a writer’s abundance (a book a year, roughly, in Updike’s case). Most ...

Rabbit Resartus

Edward Pearce

8 November 1990
Rabbit at Rest 
by John Updike.
Deutsch, 505 pp., £14.99, October 1990, 0 233 98622 7
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... a mere three books. Indeed, although Rabbit, at the end of what is now a tetralogy, looks sick to the terminal rim, I would hesitate to take bets that resurrection is ruled out. Thirty years ago JohnUpdike gave us in Rabbit Run Harold ‘Rabbit’ Angstrom, the basketball-player lately wed to tippling slatternly Janice Springer, who failed to cope. When baby Becky drowns through the negligence ...

Other Selves

John​ Bayley

29 October 1987
How I Grew 
by Mary McCarthy.
Weidenfeld, 278 pp., £14.95, September 1987, 0 297 79170 2
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Myself and Michael Innes 
by J.I.M. Stewart.
Gollancz, 206 pp., £12.95, September 1987, 0 575 04104 8
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... and dominating old lady, and written about her, he would not also have been able to write the masterpiece of ‘Seaton’s Aunt’. The process works another way, too. In his splendid stories JohnUpdike creates a far more telling image of himself as a denizen of suburban America, and a participator in its ritual matings and partings, than if he had spelt it all out in the true first person ...

Sour Plums

John​ Lanchester

26 October 1989
The Letters of John​ Cheever 
edited by Benjamin Cheever.
Cape, 397 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 224 02689 5
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Mary McCarthy 
by Carol Gelderman.
Sidgwick, 430 pp., £12.95, March 1989, 0 283 99797 4
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The company she keeps 
by Mary McCarthy.
Weidenfeld, 246 pp., £4.50, October 1989, 0 297 79649 6
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... In 1964, Time published a profile of John Cheever which, in a sub-heading, described him as ‘The Monogamist’. Subsequent events have proved that not to have been the fact-checkers’ finest hour. In 1984, two years after his death, Susan ...

Dis-Grace

Frank Kermode

21 March 1996
In the Beauty of the Lilies 
by John Updike.
Hamish Hamilton, 512 pp., £16, April 1996, 0 241 13653 9
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... It seems safe to infer from his now majestically large oeuvre that JohnUpdike’s ultimate ambition is to get the whole of America, its geography as well as its history, the fluctuations of its spiritual as well as of its material wellbeing, into his books. The contribution of ...

Mr Down-by-the-Levee

Thomas Jones: Updike’s Terrorist

7 September 2006
Terrorist 
by John Updike.
Hamish Hamilton, 310 pp., £17.99, August 2006, 0 241 14351 9
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... is still alive, seeing what he sees. He supposes this is a good thing, but it is an effort.’ These two men, or rather this boy and this man, Ahmad Ashmawy Mulloy and Jack Levy, are at the centre of JohnUpdike’s new novel. There can’t be many readers who will begin Terrorist without wondering what Updike – white, Protestant, 74 – thinks he is doing, presuming to be able to inhabit the ...

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