Biography: Updike Was “Mostly Happy”

Hermione Lee considers a new biography of John Updike: ‘The pathos of past things is one of Updike’s most poignant subjects. Rabbit Angstrom is always listing them as his town changes; and the stories are full of them.’ Further: ‘But, remarkably, this is in general a story of cheerfulness. Updike is mostly happy: happy as a small boy drawing cartoons sprawled on the carpet, happy clowning about to entertain his friends, happy in his sexual freedoms, happy in his country (“America is a vast conspiracy to make you happy”). “He was cheerful by nature,” the biography says…Even in the anguish of marital breakdown, Updike was miserable, but “not too miserable to write.”’

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