In John Updike’s second collection of assorted prose he comes into his own as a book reviewer; most of the pieces picked up here were first published in The New Yorker in the 1960s and early ’70s. If one word could sum up the young critic’s approach to books and their authors it would be “generosity”: “Better to praise and share,” he says in his Foreword, “than to blame and ban.” And so he follows his enthusiasms, which prove both deserving and infectious: Kierkegaard, Proust, Joyce, Dostoevsky, and Hamsun among the classics; Borges, Nabokov, Grass, Bellow, Cheever, and Jong among the contemporaries. Here too are meditations on Satan and cemeteries, travel essays on London and Anguilla, three very early “golf dreams,” and one big interview. Picked-Up Pieces is a glittering treasury for every reader who likes life, books, wit—and John Updike.
About the Author
John Updike was born in 1932, in Shillington, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Harvard College in 1954, and spent a year in Oxford, England, at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. From 1955 to 1957 he was a member of the staff of The New Yorker, and since 1957 has lived in Massachusetts. He is the author of fifty-odd previous books, including twenty novels and numerous collections of short stories, poems, and criticism. His fiction has won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the American Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Rosenthal Award, and the Howells Medal.
“[Updike’s] interests are wide . . . his prose is clear and straight, and his powers of organization and explication are formidable. . . . There is an immensely attractive, nonacademic attentiveness to his reviews. At his best he goes right to the human center, the heart of a writer expressed in his art.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Updike is a strong reviewer. . . . He describes precisely, praises judiciously, criticizes fearlessly, and ponders seriously.”—The New Republic
“Updike possesses that intuitive sense of other writers’ temperaments that raises literary criticism to the level of art. . . . If he wished, Updike could become one of our finest literary critics as well as novelists, an heir to that imposing predecessor in the pages of The New Yorker, Edmund Wilson.”—James Atlas, The New York Times Magazine