WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD
“Writing criticism is to writing fiction and poetry as hugging the shore is to sailing in the open sea,” writes John Updike in his Foreword to this collection of literary considerations. But the sailor doth protest too much: This collection begins somewhere near deep water, with a flotilla of short fiction, humor pieces, and personal essays, and even the least of the reviews here—those that “come about and draw even closer to the land with another nine-point quotation”—are distinguished by a novelist’s style, insight, and accuracy, not just surface sparkle. Indeed, as James Atlas commented, the most substantial critical articles, on Melville, Hawthorne, and Whitman, go out as far as Updike’s fiction: They are “the sort of ambitious scholarly reappraisal not seen in this country since the death of Edmund Wilson.” With Hugging the Shore, Michiko Kakutani wrote, Updike established himself “as a major and enduring critical voice; indeed, as the pre-eminent critic of his generation.”
About John Updike
John Updike was the author of more than sixty books, including collections of short stories, poems, and criticism. His novels have been honored with the Pulitzer Prize (twice), the National Book Award, and the Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Hugging the Shore, an earlier collection of essays and reviews, received the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. He died in January 2009.
“No living American novelist can match Updike in the range and responsiveness of his reading. . . . [Literature is] a house with many mansions, and in Hugging the Shore Updike gives a splendid, striding tour.”—James Wolcott, Harper’s
“These reviews are models of craft—and something more. . . . Hugging the Shore bristles with erudition, energy, and (quietly asserted) high seriousness; it is also one of the year’s most entertaining books.”—Bruce Allen, The Christian Science Monitor
“[Updike’s is] a body of literary criticism unmatched in range, discrimination and eloquence by any American novelist since Henry James.”—The Boston Globe