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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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... its wry but persistent hopefulness, matches the shape and tint of present America.’ This was John Updike in 1961, saying of J.D. Salinger what critics since have been saying of John Updike: 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 John Updike 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 him into his seventies it may be that this is the last of Bech, as Rabbit at Rest was presumably the last of Rabbit, but as long as the real author is alive, fertile and motile, one cannot be sure ...

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 John Updike, 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 the complexity of envisioned phenomena, and it surprised me to have it called luxuriant and self-indulgent; self-indulgent, surely, is what it wasn’t – other-indulgent, rather ...

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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... John Updike’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 Updike was but a sprig, apprenticing at the New Yorker and carving out a little piece of Pennsylvania as his literary duchy, his gleaming facility was found suspect by some detractors, its satin finish the imposture of a fair-haired boy out to impress his elders with the fine flick of his exquisite perceptions and deflective modesty ...

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 John Updike. 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 ...

Towards the Transhuman

James Atlas, 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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... the tense problem of the modern muse and the sexual prompt of modern art’, or that John Updike 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, reciting worn-out academic phrases, too bored even ...

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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... masterpiece of ‘Seaton’s Aunt’. The process works another way, too. In his splendid stories John Updike 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, recounting his triumphs and disasters in the field of ...

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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... a chilling subject-matter fixed with a steady eye, The Witches of Eastwick through the potency of John Updike’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 this year, shortly before the town council attempted to ...

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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... the terminal rim, I would hesitate to take bets that resurrection is ruled out. Thirty years ago John Updike 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 of Janice, Rabbit runs away. In Rabbit Redux, the title ...

Short Cuts

Paul Laity: Hanging out at River Cottage HQ, 14 December 2006

... version of pastoral is more fashionable than ever. ‘In a time of informational overload,’ John Updike 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 a cabin in the woods and thus reform, simplify and ...

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 John Updike 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 days trying to write an adequate description of his nostrils, and all I would be left with after months of standing tiptoe on the balance beam of objectivity and fair assessment would be a letter to the editor from some guy named Norbert accusing me of cutting off a great man’s dong in print ...

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 John Updike 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 novelists, it is said, would pant to exhibit such a fault ...

Southern Virtues

Frank Kermode, 4 May 1989

A Turn in the South 
by V.S. Naipaul.
Viking, 307 pp., £14.95, April 1989, 0 670 82415 1
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Allen Tate: A Recollection 
by Walter Sullivan.
Louisiana State, 117 pp., $16.95, November 1988, 0 8071 1481 2
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Self-Consciousness 
by John Updike.
Deutsch, 245 pp., £12.95, May 1989, 0 233 98390 2
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... to Nashville he seems to have to have attended more to the Grand Old Opry than to Vanderbilt. John Updike, though intensely American, has nothing to do with the South, and his autobiographical chapters deal mostly with his childhood in Pennsylvania and the time between then and now, when he has lived mostly in Massachusetts, mostly by the sea. He ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Amis Biz, 19 April 2001

... tentatively entitled ‘The Cliché Strikes Back’. The blurb on War says that Amis is, ‘like John Updike’, ‘the pre-eminent novelist-critic of his generation’ (there isn’t, curiously, a reciprocal comparison with Amis on the jacket of Updike’s More Matter). That being so, wouldn’t the best way for a ...

Scenes in the Sack

Michael Wood, 11 March 1993

Memories of the Ford Administration 
by John Updike.
Hamish Hamilton, 371 pp., £15.99, March 1993, 0 241 13386 6
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... Everyone remembers what they were doing when John Kennedy was killed, but no one even asks what you were doing when Gerald Ford was President. The wonderfully comic, deviously historical premise of John Updike’s new novel is that someone asks. The someone is the plausible-sounding Northern New England Association of American Historians, and the person asked is one Alfred L ...

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