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. coffee

    John Updike’s passing is sad, but he left a ton of awesome work. “Immortality is nontransferrable” he said appropriately.

  2. Tomas Hrivnak

    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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