Reading Adam Begley’s book on John Updike confirms my beliefs that biography matters and that first biographies of major writers invariably leave more to be explored. Begley shows that while it may have seemed effortless for Updike to write sixty-odd books, this production took a lot of effort. Updike was more disciplined than almost all of his contemporaries, except for the likes of Philip Roth and Joyce Carol Oates. And like these two, he suffered at the hands of undiscerning critics, who think a major novel cannot be produced in less than five years. But as some writers know, the more you write, the more the words accumulate, eventually having an incremental impact that can sustain an author like Updike over a lifetime. Producing many books results in some being better than others, a truth that seems inevitable. Rather than a reason for us to deplore a prolific artist, a sizeable body of work affords an opportunity...


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