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John Updike's house to become a museum

May 10, 2012 | 11:02 am

Updikehouse
The childhood home of John Updike will be turned into a museum, if all goes as planned. The fate of the house in Shillington, Pa., which was up for sale, had been uncertain.

Now the John Updike Society has announced it signed an agreement to purchase the home and preserve it as a memorial to the Pulitzer Prize-winning author.

Updike was one of the most significant literary figures of the latter half of the 20th century. He wrote award-winning novels that were also bestsellers, published eight volumes of poetry, and until his death, in 2009 at the age of 76, was a lively and engaged cultural critic who regularly reviewed books for the New Yorker. He burst onto the cultural scene with the 1960 novel "Rabbit, Run," whose narrative exposed a restlessness underlying suburban life that would explode later in the decade.

Updike lived in the Shillington home, which is near Reading in eastern Pennsylvania, until he was 13. The building currently has a commercial tenant; the John Updike Society paid $200,000 to purchase the property.

"We expect the Updike house to be a destination for writers and scholars," James Plath, president of the John Updike Society, told the Reading Eagle, "and perhaps those who wish to see it when we hold our conference in the area every four years."

The deal for the house is contingent upon a zoning variance that would allow the John Updike Society to operate the home as a historic site. It plans to have the home be open by appointment only.

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 -- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: John Updike's childhood home in Shillington, Pa. Credit: Tim Leedy / Associated Press

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