Biography Of John Updike Essay, Research Paper
Sucking You In: The story of John Updike
John Updike has been known for his short story and novel writing all throughout the last 30 years. He has something in his text that can just grab the reader and literally pull them into the story. Using his vivid imagination and his unique style of writing, he makes you feel like you are actually there. Weather it is in the middle of a sporting event, or on top of a snowy mountain preparing to start your voyage down on nothing but two thin pieces of metal. He has a way of relating to peoples real life problems. This is why John Updike is such an outstanding writer.
Born and raised in Shillington, Pennsylvania in 1932, he lived in a not so wealthy family. Luckily, he was accepted to Harvard College and graduated in 1954. This is what turned his life around. After school was done, he worked for a few years on the staff of The New Yorker. When his writing abilities were finally noticed, he got the idea to start writing poetry and short stories. This was the best idea he ever had. His novels
have won the Pulitzer Prize, The National Book Award, the American Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. (Lilies-Updike) John is currently living in Massachusetts with four children to care for.
After reading many of John Updike?s works, it is easy to see a distinctive
style to his writing. He often focuses on events that may have seemed to have come from his very own life. He also likes to write about sporting events. In the story ?Deaths of Distant Friends? a middle aged man, owner of his own hardware store, simply drops dead for do apparent reason. He was in perfect health, and nobody could figure out how he could possibly have died. This man was the father to the narrator of the story.
Throughout the rest of the short story, the narrator loses many people that are close to him, as well as people that he doesn?t really know all that much. I believe that Updike writes about this because it happened to him personally. I don?t know this for a fact, but by the way he describes it in the short story, makes it sound like he is talking from first hand experiences. In the end of the story, the narrator takes his own life out
In the middle of his life, Updike was married and had four children. At the same time of his life, he wrote the short story ?Gesturing?. In this story, a couple has been married for quite some time, and each partner is having a secret affair. After thinking about the kids and how they would feel with the situation, they decide to call it quits. After the very mature break up, the two go out to dinner and talk about their sexual
experiences with their ?mistresses? over the last year or so. This story seems like it might also be related to a real life experience. Maybe not Updike?s life personally, but perhaps somebody that he knew very well. This short story was also used in an issue of Playboy about ten years back.
Another story that I read that I believe very well could have been taken from Updike?s life was ?Father and Daughter in the Cold?. This story is about a man and his daughter, Becki, who love to ski. His daughter is very good. Maybe even Olympic material. Her Father, Mike, is not half bad, but due to his asthma he can only handle so much of it. One cold day, the two decided to go out and ski. Upon arrival, Mike doesn?t feel too well. He is having troubles breathing. They decide to race down the slope. Half way down, Mike has to stop to use his inhaler and Becki wins. After their exciting trip, they go and sit in the lodge and sip on hot cocoa. I believe that this story portrays Updike?s love for his children. It shows that because even though Mike is having trouble breathing and knows that he will have an asthma attack, he still goes skiing with his daughter. Can you feel the love?
When Updike talks about sporting events, he makes you feel not only like you are there, but also like you are sitting on the edge of your seat in awe. You can see the game happening, never able to predict what is going to happen next. In ?Ex-Basketball Player? Flick Webb, a young man just out of high school, is working at a gas station just outside his home town. The narrator of this story tells the reader about many of Flicks basketball highlights. He tells how he once saw Flick score 40 points in one game. The narrator, however, is very disappointed that Flick did not carry on his basketball career. He believed that Webb could have gone so much farther in his basketball career than just a high school athlete. The way that Updike describes the way Webb played mad you actually visualize the young man in your head. It is amazing.
Another one of Updike?s amazingly descriptive short stories that involve sports was a story called ?The Slump?. This story was very realistic, much like ?Ex-Basketball Player? It felt like you were really there at the games. The story was about a ball player who started his career out great, but went into a slump after a few years. The reason for his ?slump? is a series of ?blind spots? that he has. He says it seems like he just can?t see the ball as well anymore. The bulk of the story was the player looking back on the highlights of his career. I liked this story because I can relate to baseball. It is my favorite thing to do.
A story about art. ?Learn a Trade? is a story about a young boy who is not very talented at anything in life. But there is one thing that he is good at. Making junk sculptures. And most importantly, he loves to do it. As he grows older, he never loses interest in the sculptures. He still loves to make them. He is accepted to a major art school and goes there. While he is in attendance, he sees so many people with a gift similar to his. The only difference between them is that he enjoys what he is doing, and none of the others do. Throughout the rest of the story, the main character spends his time (by now he is in his mid 40?s) telling everyone he knows, including his own kids, to do what they want to do in life. If you don?t like what you do, you will be miserable for the rest of your life. I can relate to this story also. I love music, which is an art. I am also good at it and I plan to study it in college. But I am not studying it because I am good at it. I am studying it because I love it.
Throughout all of the short stories that I read, I noticed a very consistent style in John Updike?s writing. He uses many common methods in all or most of his stories. One of those methods that Updike used very frequently, but also very effectively, was imagery. This is when an author writes something and you can actually see, feel or taste it. In the short story ?Gesturing? the phrase ?With this ring, I thee wed? was used many times. This was done to help you, the reader, picture the love that he has for his wife. Only he doesn?t actually realize it until he has lost her in the end of the story. He also uses imagery by describing and comparing the two lovers in his life. You can actually visualize the two individuals.
Imagery can be used in many ways. It can be used to describe a person, or it can be used to describe the way a person does something. In ?Ex-Basketball Player?, the narrator of the story describes vividly how good Flick Webb actually was. ?….I was there one time when he bucketed just over 40 points….the gym was going crazy..? He also described Flick. You could almost get a mental picture of him in your head while you were reading the story. It was very descriptive.
The imagery used in ?The Slump? was in many ways similar to that used in ?Ex-Basketball Player?. The way the man played was described as ?….full of homeruns…..never a dull moment.? This players career came to an end, however, due to his physical condition. ?The sun seems a high fly I am going to lose? This , to me, is the players image not only on baseball, but also on his own life. I believe that he feels that his life is going to be over now that he can no longer play the game he loves.
Personification is defined as a non-living object being given living qualities. In many of his stories, Updike uses this method. By using this method, the reader can get a better perspective of what the author is trying to describe. In ?Ex-Basketball Player? the gas pumps at the gas station that Flick works at are personified. The top of the pump was the head, the handles on each side were the arms, and the numbers where the price was are the eyes. The pumps were even referred to as ?….little people.?
In the short story ?Learn a Trade? the narrator often personified the junk sculptures that he made. ?…..some had blonde hair, some red………..Some were taller than others….? At first it was hard to realize that the things being described were the junk sculptures, but it was later made obvious when he went into greater detail in the descriptions of the ?people?.
In the story ?Deaths of Distant Friends? the things being personified are the caskets at the first funeral that the narrator attends. ?The caskets had arms, legs, and even eyes. They could hear and see everything.? In the context of the story, this was actually a little creepy. Updike uses personification in so many different ways, it is uncanny.
Comparing two objects without using the words ?like? or ?as?. This is the definition of a metaphor. Metaphors pop up all over the short stories by Updike. This is mainly due to his way of describing everything to its fullest extent. One example of a metaphor can be found in ?Deaths of Distant Friends?. ?That old lady is ancient?.she is death?? This helps the reader get a view of how old the lady actually is, or in her case, was.
?The Slump? also uses the metaphor on a few occasions. ??but he is a brick wall behind the plate. Nothing can get by him?? This is used to describe the catchers ability. If you can imagine trying to throw a baseball through a brick wall, then you can imagine how good this catcher must be. The loss of the players skills can also be used as a metaphor for his life.
Updike likes to dig deep into the heart of his characters. He brings out their emotions, and shows us their view of their own life. In ?Gesturing? the main metaphor is a large skyscraper in the middle of Boston. ?The skyscraper was a beautiful disaster..? The skyscraper is, as in many of Updike?s other short stories, a metaphor for the character?s life.
The final, and most evident method that is used in his short stories is the simile. This is a comparison using ?like? or ?as?. This method is used so much because Updike loves to give detailed descriptions of everything. In ?Ex-Basketball Player?, Updike uses the simile numerous times to portray the way that Flick Webb plays the game of Basketball. ?..his hands were like wild birds.? ???Old Flick could run like the wind.? These comparisons help you get a feel for the way that Flick plays.
Have you ever been skiing? Was it cold? How cold was it? ?The cold shone through his clothes like furious light.? Was it that cold? To me when Updike describes something, he does it with emotion. I have never been skiing before in my life, and now I don?t want to. And it is all because of the fact that now I know how cold it would be, and I hate the cold!
Throughout his many stories that I have read, my most favorite simile that he used came from the story ?The Slump? ?The grass (of the field) seemed too precious to walk on, like emeralds.? I think that this quote is my favorite because I can relate to it. It made me feel the intensity and the nervousness right before the big game. I felt like I was getting ready to play when I read it. He uses so many different ways of describing things that it makes you a part of the story.
Although most of his writings came from the late 70?s and 80?s, there was some influence on Updike that came from the 60?s. He was just beginning to reach his middle age in the 60?s. A time hen most people have a steady job and a family at home. I think that he wrote so much about sports because sports were just getting big in the mid 60?s. At this time, his kids were also becoming old enough to partake in some sports. Perhaps they inspired him. But whatever it is that has inspired John Updike has been passed on to all of his readers. He has a way of sucking you in, so to speak. And once he has reached you once, you?ll keep on coming back for more.