Becoming John Updike

Becoming John Updike

Critical Reception, 1958-2010

Laurence W. Mazzeno

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A study of the journalistic and academic reception of the writings of one of the great American writers of the late twentieth century.
When John Updike died in 2009, tributes from the literary establishment were immediate and fulsome. However, no one reading reviews of Updike's work in the late 1960s would have predicted that kind of praise for a man who was known then as a brilliant stylist who had nothing to say. What changed? Why? And what is likely to be his legacy? These are the questions that Becoming John Updike pursues by examining the journalistic and academic response to his writings.
Several things about Updike's career make a reception study appropriate. First, he was prolific: he began publishing fiction and essays in 1956, published his first book in 1958, and from then on, brought out at least one new book each year. Second, his books were reviewed widely - usually in major American newspapers and magazines, and often in foreign ones as well. Third, Updike quickly became a darling of academics; the first book about his work was published in 1967, less than a decade after his own first book. More than three dozen books and hundreds of articles of academic criticism have been devoted to Updike. The present volume will appeal to the continuing interest in Updike's writing among academics and general readers alike.

Laurence W. Mazzeno is President Emeritus of Alvernia University. Among other books, he has written volumes on Austen, Dickens, Tennyson, and Matthew Arnold for Camden House's Literary Criticism in Perspective series.

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Table of Contents

Developing a Style, Experimenting with Form (1958-1967)
Making a Name on the National Scene (1968-1975)
Launching New Ventures (1976-1980)
Pulitzer Prize Winner, Vilified Misogynist (1981-1985)
Crowning Achievements (1986-1990)
Keeping Up the Pace (1991-1995)
America and Updike, Growing Old Together (1996-1999)
New Experiments in the New Century (2000-2004)
Facing the Unthinkable, Contemplating the Inevitable (2005-2008)
Final Volumes, Fresh Assessments (2009-)
Major Works by John Updike
Works Cited


[A] masterful appraisal of Updike's literary reception. . . . [E]ssential reading for those who want to gain a full understanding of [Updike's] oeuvre. JOHN UPDIKE REVIEW

Updike scholarship owes a debt to Laurence W. Mazzeno [who has] produce[d] a clear, well-organized, and useful reference work. . . . [A]n engaging narrative of Updike's career . . . . In the years to come, I have little doubt that those of us interested in Updike will be reaching for [this book]. . . . [It] is clearly an important contribution to Updike studies. RESOURCES FOR AMERICAN LITERARY STUDY

[H]ighly competent. . . . Becoming John Updike is the most substantial review of Updike criticism to date, and it is likely that it will continue to prove interesting and useful reading for anyone working on Updike far into the future. . . . Although it is an impossible task to fully summarize the great accumulated mass of fifty years of Updike studies, Mazzeno succeeds in providing a sense of the arc of Updike's fate in the American intellectual culture. THE AMERICAN STUDIES JOURNAL

[A]n invaluable volume . . . for scholars and even for inquisitive [general] readers, as well as a tribute to John Updike's work. EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF AMERICAN STUDIES

Mazzeno is adept at presenting the positive and the negative -- and the opposing -- views that Updike's work evoked during the more than 50 years he was a productive writer. . . . This volume well reflects Updike's identity as both a polemical figure and an indispensable cultural touchstone. . . . Recommended. CHOICE

Author Bio

Laurence Mazzeno retired as president of Alvernia College, Pennsylvania.

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