Famously before him came poet Wallace Stevens, but John Updike and his fellow writer aren’t the only celebrities to come from Berks County. Susan Miers Smith wrote about Updike and four others in a Jan. 2 Reading Eagle story titled “5 celebrities with Berks County connections”—though the lower-case “is” in one book title and “Poorhouse” written as two words would have made Updike cringe. Also included in this batch are singer Taylor Swift, Hall of Fame football player Lenny Moore, actor Michael Constantine, and artist Keith Haring.
Updike’s “claim to fame,” according to Smith: “Internationally known author and poet. Twice won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction: in 1982 for Rabbit Is Rich and in 1990 for Rabbit at Rest. He published more than 30 fiction books from 1959-2008.”
To that we might add that Updike was one of only a handful of Americans to receive both the National Medal of Arts and the National Humanities Medal in White House ceremonies from two different presidents. And he was one of only three literary writers to appear more than once on the cover of Time magazine—the others being Nobel laureates Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner. Updike published more than 60 books in all genres: fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, criticism, drama, and children’s books.