John Updike Quotes

American poet, novelist, short story author, and essayist, John Updike, won numerous literary awards and enjoyed commercial success. Approximately 50 books were published during his 77 years, spanning the last half of the 20th century. He died in 2009. 

Since he was a boy, he wanted to be a cartoonist for the New Yorker, and he studied both English and graphic design. While at Harvard for his BA, He did cartoons and wrote for the Harvard “Lampoon” until graduating in 1954.

He and his new wife moved to England, where he continued his art studies at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art in Oxford. After one of his articles was published by the New Yorker, he became a staff writer for the weekly magazine. After two years, he struck out on his own, having a long and brilliant career. His work is perhaps best known to a broader audience due to his novel, “Witches of Eastwick,” having been made into a movie starring Jack Nicholson, Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Susan Sarandon. 

Was John Updike a misogynist? Many readers and critics say yes. His manner of portraying women – even within the more overt sexism of the time he lived – definitely was misogynistic. 

“What art offers is space – a certain breathing room for the spirit.

“That a marriage ends is less than ideal; but all things end under heaven, and if temporality is held to be invalidating, then nothing real succeeds.”

“We take our bearings, daily, from others. To be sane is, to a great extent, to be sociable.”

“Professionalism in art has this difficulty: To be professional is to be dependable, to be dependable is to be predictable, and predictability is esthetically boring – an anti-virtue in a field where we hope to be astonished and startled and at some deep level refreshed.”

“America is a vast conspiracy to make you happy.”

“Memory has a spottiness, as if the film was sprinkled with developer instead of immersed in it.”

“Most of American life consists of driving somewhere and then returning home, wondering why the hell you went.”

“Without books, we might just melt into the airwaves and be just another set of blips.”

“Creativity is merely a plus name for regular activity. Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or better.”

“Celebrity is a mask that eats into your face.”

“A healthy male adult bore consumes each year one and a half times his own weight in other people’s patience.”

“I want to write books that unlock the traffic jam in everybody’s head.”

“You cannot help but learn more as you take the world into your hands. Take it up reverently, for it is an old piece of clay, with millions of thumbprints on it.”

“We are most alive when we’re in love.”

-John Updike (1932-2009)

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