Adam Begley, The Observer‘s longtime book review editor, has signed on with HarperCollins to write a biography of John Updike, who died last month of lung cancer at the age of 76. Mr. Begley sold the book through the literary agent George Borchardt, and will be edited by Tim Duggan. The publication date is set for 2011.
Speaking from his home in London, Mr. Begley said Mr. Duggan first approached him about doing a book about six months ago, but that at the time he didn’t have any great ideas for what that book might be. Mr. Duggan got in touch again the day after Mr. Begley’s Updike obituary ran in The Observer, and plans for this biography were hatched shortly thereafter.
Mr. Begley said his first contact with Updike came when he was a toddler, as a result of his father, the novelist Louis Begley, who graduated from the English department at Harvard with him in 1954.
Later, when he was 35-years-old, Mr. Begley interviewed Updike for a profile in the magazine Mirabella.
“He was doing a reading in a college town in Wisconsin, and I spent two days following him around,” Mr. Begley said. “It was when Brazil came out, and I think I did it in lieu of reviewing the book, because it wasn’t one of his best. I thought it’d be more fun to talk about him than to talk about the book.”
Mr. Begley interviewed Updike again in the fall of 2003 for an Observer profile. Afterward, Updike gave him a copy of the book Self-Consciousness, inscribed with a tender dedication: “For Adam Begley, the interviewer who makes me happy. Best wishes, of course, John Updike.”