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John Updike

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"But for a few phrases from his letters and an odd line or two of his verse, the poet walks gagged through his own biography."

John Updike, for one of the most famous and creative poets in the world, has had a very normal life. His biography and life story as a person is not all too interesting besides the fact that it expresses his utter genius and complete intelligence in almost everything he has ever done and his determination to succeed in the tasks he sets before himself. For the man who has a quote for just about everything and an IQ above many, there is little to be said about the events in his own time, but it is an existence full of accomplishments.

John Hoyer Updike was born on March 18, 1932 in Reading, Pennsylvania. He was son of Linda Grace (Hoyer) and Wesley Russell Updike and raised Presbyterian. In 1932 he began attending school at Shillington. John remained in school there from 1932 until 1950. In 1945, on Halloween day, he moved to an 80-acre farm in the country, near Plowville, Pennsylvania where his mother was born. It was eleven miles from Shillington. He stayed at the same school where his father was teaching junior and senior high school mathematics.

In 1950 he graduated president and co-valedictorian of the senior class at Shillington High School. The next summer and the two following summers, he worked as a copy boy for the Reading Eagle, writing a few feature stories for money. In the fall he entered Harvard University on a tuition scholarship. He then began drawing and writing at the same time for a humorous magazine called the Harvard Lampoon. He was eventually elected president of the magazine. Shortly after this he received his major in English Literature. While enrolled in Harvard he met Mary E. Pennington, a fine arts major from Radcliffe, and on June 26, 1953 they decided to get married. In September of that same year, sadly, his close maternal grandfather, John F. Hoyer, died. John's senior year he wrote a paper on Robert Herrick, the seventeenth-century English poet: "Non-Horatian Elements in Robert Herrick's Imitations and Echoes of Horace." He graduated in 1954 as summa cum laude from Harvard. In one of his most famous quotes he states, "Four years was enough of Harvard. I still had a lot to learn, but had been given the liberating notion that now I could teach myself."

Not long before joining The New Yorker as a staff writer, John had his first daughter Elizabeth on April 1 of 1955. Two years later he had a son on January 19 named David. He then left The New Yorker to concentrate more on his own poetry and fiction. After some time spent in Ipswich, Massachusetts, he completes a six hundred page novel called Home and decides not to publish it. In 1958 he completes The Carpentered Hen and Other Tame Creatures and does decide to publish it with Harper and Brothers. This was the only book he ever published to them because on his next book, Poorhouse Fair, they wanted him to change his ending and so he switched to Knopf. On May 14, 1959, his son Michael and the following year on December 15, his daughter Miranda was born.

John writes many, many more books over the next few years. In 1964 he is elected a new member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters and then gets the opportunity to travel to Russia, Rumania, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia with the invitation of the State Department as part of a U.S.-U.S.S.R. Cultural Exchange Program. While there, one of the interesting things he discovers is that, "Americans have been conditioned to respect newness, whatever it costs them." At age 32 he becomes the youngest person ever elected into the National Institute of Arts and Letters on April 1. In 1966 he receives First Prize in the "O. Henry Prize Stories" competition



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