John Updike’s death is a major loss to the ranks of America’s literary heavyweights. A Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist for Rabbit Is Rich and Rabbit at Rest, Updike had been writing in many formats, including poetry, essays and short stories, since the 1950s.
He earned much acclaim for the Rabbit books, four novels published over several decades featuring former high school basketball player Harry ‘Rabbit’ Angstrom - a man struggling to adjust to almost every aspect of his life.
Updike began writing at an early age after suffering from ill health. His mother worked in a department store and his father was a high school teacher. Updike’s father is recalled in his 1964 novel, The Centaur. A student at Harvard, Updike wrote for the Harvard Lampoon and then took a one-year fellowship to study painting at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Arts at Oxford University. Shortly after that he began writing for The New Yorker. The Poorhouse Fair was his first novel and when he released the first of the Rabbit books, Rabbit, Run, critics quickly recognized Updike as a special talent.
Love, marriage, sex and life in suburban America were often on Updike’s agenda. Couples is a explicit story of sex in the suburbs that sold extremely well. Beauty of the Lilies takes a look at faith and fantasy. Too Far to Go details the love, marriage and divorce of a suburban couple. Even The Witches of Eastwick, another bestseller, riffs on a coven of restless divorcees in New England. His last novel, published last year, was The Widows of Eastwick.
Collectors have long adored the work of Updike – not least because he was one of the great signers in literature. More than 1,700 signed copies of his books are offered for sale on AbeBooks. Prices stretch from a few dollars to £4,520 for a 1960 first edition of Rabbit, Run.