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Adam Begly's biography of Updike

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My recent reading includes a biography of one of my favorite novelists, John Updike, written by Adam Begley, former books editor for The New York Observer.

Quite incidentally, I see that one of the blurbs on the dust jacket comes from Janet Malcolm, another author I'm sure I've mentioned in this blog or its precursor. Malcolm is known for In the Freud Archives and for her take on the Jeffrey MacDonald case.

This is what she has to say about Begley's book, "He has rendered a portrait of the writer that shimmers with truth. This is literary biography at its highest level of excellence."

I wondered when I first picked the book up how long it would take Begley to mention the theologian Karl Barth, who haunts so many of Updike's works. The index indicates Barth is mentioned just five times, a modest number IMHO. The first time at p. 223, and it is in the form of a direct quote from his subject. In order to give himself relief from an "oppressive blanket of funk," Updike wrote, he "read Barth and fell in love with other men's wives."

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