John Updike

But for a few phrases from his letters and an odd line or two of his verse, the poet walks gagged through his own biography.


John Updike, for one of the most famous and creative poets in the world, has had a very normal life. His biography and life story as a person is not all too interesting besides the fact that it expresses his utter genius and complete intelligence in almost everything he has ever done and his determination to succeed in the tasks he sets before himself. For the man who has a quote for just about everything and an IQ above many, there is little to be said about the events in his own time, but it is an existence full of accomplishments.
John Hoyer Updike was born on March 18, 1932 in Reading, Pennsylvania. He was son of Linda Grace (Hoyer) and Wesley Russell Updike and raised Presbyterian. In 1932 he began attending school at Shillington. John remained in school there from 1932 until 1950. In 1945, on Halloween day, he moved to an 80-acre farm in the country, near Plowville, Pennsylvania where his mother was born. It was eleven miles from Shillington. He stayed at the same school where his father was teaching junior and senior high school mathematics.
In 1950 he graduated president and co-valedictorian of the senior class at Shillington High School. The next summer and the two following summers, he worked as a copy boy for the Reading Eagle, writing a few feature stories for money. In the fall he entered Harvard University on a tuition scholarship. He then began drawing and writing at the same time for a humorous magazine called the Harvard Lampoon. He was eventually elected president of the magazine. Shortly after this he received his major in English Literature. While enrolled in Harvard he met Mary E. Pennington, a fine arts major from Radcliffe, and on June 26, 1953 they decided to get married. In September of that same year, sadly, his close maternal grandfather, John F. Hoyer, died. Johns senior year he wrote a paper on Robert Herrick, the seventeenth-century English poet: “Non-Horatian Elements in Robert Herrick’s Imitations and Echoes of Horace.” He graduated in 1954 as summa cum laude from Harvard. In one of his most famous quotes he states, Four years was enough of Harvard. I still had a lot to learn, but had been given the liberating notion that now I could teach myself.
Not long before joining The New Yorker as a staff writer, John had his first daughter Elizabeth on April 1 of 1955. Two years later he had a son on January 19 named David. He then left The New Yorker to concentrate more on his own poetry and fiction. After some time spent in Ipswich, Massachusetts, he completes a six hundred page novel called Home and decides not to publish it. In 1958 he completes The Carpentered Hen and Other Tame Creatures and does decide to publish it with Harper and Brothers. This was the only book he ever published to them because on his next book, Poorhouse Fair, they wanted him to change his ending and so he switched to Knopf. On May 14, 1959, his son Michael and the following year on December 15, his daughter Miranda was born.
John writes many, many more books over the next few years. In 1964 he is elected a new member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters and then gets the opportunity to travel to Russia, Rumania, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia with the invitation of the State Department as part of a U.S.-U.S.S.R. Cultural Exchange Program. While there, one of the interesting things he discovers is that, Americans have been conditioned to respect newness, whatever it costs them. At age 32 he becomes the youngest person ever elected into the National Institute of Arts and Letters on April 1. In 1966 he receives First Prize in the O. Henry Prize Stories competition for the short story, “The Bulgarian Poetess, which came from his book The Musical School.
In 1966 he writes a novel named Couples that remains on the best sellers list for a year and then the movie rights are sold for $360,000. In 1970 he travels with his daughter Elizabeth to Japan and Korea. On April 16, 1972 in Plowville, Pennsylvania his father dies and immediately there after wards he becomes the Honorary Consultant in American Letters to the Library of Congress. Life goes pretty normal with John following his same routine of writing a book or two about every year, until 10 years later in 1976 he divorces his wife and is granted a Massachusetts no-fault divorce. He then, the next year, marries Martha Ruggles Bernhard on September 30 and lives with her and her three sons in Georgetown, Massachusetts. In 1982 he turns 50 and is put on the cover of Time magazine as Going great at 50, which he was because he didnt stop or slow his progress in the publication of numerous books. He receives the Distinguished Pennsylvania Artist Award and the Lincoln Library Award and in may travels to Harrisburg, PA, to receive the fourth Distinguished Pennsylvania Artist Award from Governor Richard Thornburgh. He then gets the Elmer Holmes Bobst Award for Fiction for his book Trust Me. In 1989 Johns mother dies at the farm in Plowville, Pennsylvania and he receives a high achievement from President Bush, the National Medal of Arts.

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For Rabbit At Rest he receives a second Pulitzer Prize, being only the third American to be honored with this prize on two occasions. In 19998 he received the Harvard Arts First Medal for the sixth annual celebration of the arts at Harvard. During September and October he traveled with his wife Martha to mainland China. In 2000 he published eight books and received the fourth annual Enoch Pratt Society Award for Lifetime Literary Achievement on November 16 at the Central Library in Mount Vernon, Maryland. John is very old, but still alive today and was recently given the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Award on October 26 of this year at Montgomery College. He has written, literally, an uncountable amount of books and has changed American society in many ways, but overall he has made many individual Americans rethink the way that things work.
Writers may be disreputable, incorrigible, early to decay or late to bloom but they dare to go it alone.

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