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16 Feb 2009 06:00
Write three pages a day for more than 50 years and you end up with about 25-million words—give or take a few million. John Updike once told The Paris Review: “I would write ads for deodorants or labels for catsup bottles if I had to” and he meant it.
From the time his first short story, Friends from Philadelphia, was bought by The New Yorker in 1954, until his death on January 27, Updike wrote nearly 30 novels, 14 volumes of short stories, nine of poetry and 10 collections of essays and criticism.
What is the average reader, who hasn’t spent the last half-century closely following Updike’s output, expected to make of his work? He was, unquestionably, a great stylist and a brilliant observer of the American middle-classes, in particular their sex lives, but like all writers he was prone to the odd off day. Or even year. Here’s a brief guide of what to read—and what to avoid.
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