John Updike (born March 18 1932) is a novelist and short story author born in Shillington, Pennsylvania. Updike's most famous works are his Rabbit series (Rabbit, Run, Rabbit Redux, Rabbit is Rich, Rabbit at Rest, and Rabbit, Remembered), but this series isn't what made him famous. Updike is well known for his prolific writing, having published about 30 novels and short story collections, as well as some literary criticism. His career is often viewed as an unending series of accomplishments, rather than one great pinnacle.
He favors realism in his writing; for instance the opening of Rabbit, Run, spans several pages describing a pick-up basketball game in intricate detail. Most of his novels follow this style at least loosely, and generally feature everyday people in middle America. He on occasion abandons this setting, for instance in The Witches of Eastwick (a novel about witches, later made into a movie of the same name), The Coup (about a fictional Cold War era African dictatorship), and in his most recent work, Gertrude and Claudius (a prelude to the story of Hamlet). His most common themes are probably sex and death, and how they work together.
He's a well known and practicing critic, and is often in the center of critical wars of words, including being called one of three stooges by Tom Wolfe (the other two were John Irving and Norman Mailer). Updike has also been involved in critical duels with Gore Vidal, another author notorious for his criticisms. This all makes for interesting reading on Salon.com, though its usefulness is perhaps questionable.