The Beat Generation faded from view as quickly as it appeared. Quickly stepping into the void were the beatniks. Despite the similar sounding names, the beatniks had very little in common with the Beats. Instead of a movement and an ideology, the beatniks represented little more than a fashion. Specifically, the beatnik was the laid-back, poetry reading goateed man, usually dressed in black. It is possible that this fashion was the result of society’s consumption and regurgitation of the Beat Generation aesthetic. If that’s the case, then the Beat writers were consumed and commodified by the very culture they sought to undermine. The hippie movement of the 1960s also owes a great debt to the Beats, though probably the Beats would not be quick to own that claim. The counterculture hippies generally lacked the intellectual backing that the Beats earned in the 1940s. In order to rebel and change a system, one must have some knowledge of the inner workings of that system. The Beat Generation was more educated and sophisticated than they seemed at first glance. Their artistic rebellion was calculated, and informed with an understanding of what came before them.
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Although he has had one of the most successful careers of any American writers, Updike has always had his detractors and enjoyed his fair share of controversy. He has feuded publicly with the famously touchy essayist and novelist Gore Vidal, as well as with the novelist John Gardner, who described Updike’s work as “bourgeois-pornographic” fiction that glorifies adultery. Similar criticism has often been aimed at Updike’s more sexually explicit work, particularly Couples , and even the early story “A&P,” in which Updike’s interest in the dynamics of sexual attraction is clear. More recently, Updike’s negative review of a novel by Tom Wolfe drew a withering reply from Wolfe, and the subsequent war of words, waged in the pages and letters columns of several magazines, was gleefully followed by the literary world. Still producing novels, stories, and criticism regularly, Updike remains one of the most visible figures in American letters, a perennial candidate for the Nobel Prize, and the rare writer who can combine literary merit with popular success.