Author: John Updike

Born in Reading, Pennsylvania, John Updike (1932–2009) was an award-winning and prolific American novelist, short story writer, poet and art and film critic. Prior to gaining fame as a writer, Updike earned degrees from both Harvard and the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art at the University of Oxford. Considered to be one of the greatest American fiction writers of his time, Updike’s most noted work is his novel and novella series featuring Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom; two of the novels in this series earned Updike the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction: Rabbit is Rich in 1981 and Rabbit at Rest in 1990. Updike’s stories are most recognized for their glimpse into middle America and the religious, political, and social changes associated with the 1960s and the decades that followed; his principal themes are religion, sex, and death, typically addressed within the context of small-town America. In addition to his short stories and his novels, Updike published eight volumes of poetry and was a one-time staff member and longtime contributor to the New Yorker magazine.

The Fourth of July

John Updike

In this selection, first published in New England Monthly in the late 1980s and reprinted in his book Odd Jobs: Essays and Criticism (1991), the prolific 20th-century novelist, poet, and literary critic John Updike (1932–2009) offers reflections on the place of the Fourth of July in the rhythm of our summer holidays and on the ways in which we celebrate it.