Old Master in a Brave New World

JOHN UPDIKE talks with Lev Grossman about his new novel, America's big appetite, his favorite books and why he is not a pessimist

John Updike has appeared on the cover of this magazine twice, once in 1968 and again in 1982. The first time was for Couples, his then scandalous, still shocking novel of suburban partner swapping. The headline read THE ADULTEROUS SOCIETY. When he made the cover again, having just won nearly every literary award in existence for Rabbit Is Rich, the third in his four-volume Rabbit saga, he rated a somewhat tamer caption: GOING GREAT AT 50.

Updike is fond of that second cover. "It made me look smooth and kind of enigmatic," he says with a wry, twinkly smile. "All the...

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