Nan Steinley

Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department / School



Few authors can live on the income produced solely by their writing. John Updike is among the even more rare writers who not only has lived but prospered by his pen. As one of America's most prolific and successful living writers, he is virtually guaranteed nation-wide recognition, as well as a position on best seller lists, whenever he publishes anything. Born in 1932 in Shillington, Pennsylvania, Updike was the only child of parents who nurtured his creative talents. His father was a mathematics teacher at Shillington High School for more than thirty years and his mother was and still is an aspiring writer. Although Updike began writing at the age of eight, his primary interest was to become a cartoonist. He was an able enough student to win a scholarship to Harvard, the school chosen by his mother because she determined that it had the greatest number of successful writers among its alumni. Updike was editor of the Harvard Lampoon and during his junior year married a Radcliffe student, Mary Pennington. He graduated in 1954, the same year his first short story and his first poem were accepted by The New Yorker. After graduation the couple set sail for England where Updike was to spend a year studying at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Art. E.B.White visited him there and offered the young author a job at The New Yorker as a staff writer. This offer was the culmination of several years of work for Updike. A New Yorker subscription had been given to him by an aunt when Updike was only eleven or twelve, and he made an early decision: his "sole ambition in the world was to make The New Yorker myself". Returning to New York after his time at Oxford, Updike was to spend the next two years as a writer for the magazine. This short period proved to be his only stint of working within the confines of a regular job. He had felt that the frantic pace of New York City living was a drain on his creative abilities. The risk in moving for Updike, however, proved to be minimal. Within the first two years of living in Ipswich, he produced, with acceptable reviews, three books. And despite the distance in miles, The New Yorker continued to publish his frequent submissions of fiction and nonfiction. Although his forte clearly is anchored in nonfiction and fiction, Updike has worked in virtually every form of imaginative writing. He's even tried his hand at script writing. In an age of serious novelists and solemn poets, John Updike has dared to show that writing can be fun, that reading can be joyful, and that language is one of man's oldest and most beloved toys.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Updike, John -- Criticism and interpretation

Updike, John. Poems Selection

Updike, John -- Poetic works



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University