John Updike, American anthropologist

Updike as a young man Novelist John Updike died on yesterday at 76. While anthropologists slept, he captured American life.  While intellecuals scorned the middle class, he paid attention.  

It is as a novelist who opened a big picture window on the American middle class in the second half of the 20th century […] that he will be best remembered. In his most resonant work [the "Rabbit" series], Mr. Updike gave “the mundane its beautiful due,” as he once put it, memorializing the everyday mysteries of love and faith and domesticity with extraordinary nuance and precision. In Kodachrome-sharp snapshots, he gave us the 50’s and early 60’s of suburban adultery, big cars and wide lawns, radios and hi-fi sets, and he charted the changing landscape of the 70’s and 80’s, as malls and subdivisions swallowed up small towns and sexual and social mores underwent a bewildering metamorphosis.  [Kakutani]


Kakutani, Michiko.  2009.  A relentless Updike mapped America's mysteries.  New York Times. January 28, 2008. 

For the Wikipedia entry on Updike, go here.

2 thoughts on “John Updike, American anthropologist”

  1. John Updike was exotic. For us behind the iron curtain, at least. Reading Updike at the university in Czechoslovakia in 1988 felt – well – subversive. There wasn’t supposed to be any “normality” in the life of the American middle class. Of course, we were not fooled by what was at that time a crumbling ideological construct of “imperialist America”, but somehow our adoration of the “American way of life” was equally hollow. Updike came as a revelation. Today, I became to belileve that what we fought for back in 1989 was this kind of normality which, very quickly, took over our lives as well.

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