To the list of John Updike’s well-intentioned protagonists—Rabbit Angstrom, Richard Maple, Henry Bech—add James Buchanan, the harried fifteenth president of the United States (1857–1861). In what the author calls “a kind of novel, conceived in the form of a play,” Buchanan’s political and private lives are represented as aspects of his spiritual life, whose crowning, condensing act is the act of dying. This definitive edition includes a Foreword by Updike, discussing early productions of the work, the historical context in which it was written, and its kinship to his later novel Memories of the Ford Administration. A wide-ranging Afterword fleshes out this dramatic portrait of one of America’s lesser known, and least appreciated, leaders.
John Updike was born in Shillington, Pennsylvania, in 1932. He graduated from Harvard College in 1954 and spent a year in Oxford, England, at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. From 1955 to 1957 he was a member of the staff of The New Yorker. His novels have won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Rosenthal Foundation Award, and the William Dean Howells Medal. In 2007 he received the Gold Medal for Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. John Updike died in January 2009.
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