In a blog post ["Literary Lampoons: The Cartoonist Ambitions of a Great American Writer"] written by Bryant Scott highlighting holdings in East Carolina University’s Stuart Wright Collection, five John Updike cartoons are showcased. The best? His pre-debate assessment of “young” Dick Nixon and Jack Kennedy.
Jorge Salgado Simoes writes with news from Camara Municipal de Torres Novas, Portugal:
FICTIONAL GEOGRAPHIES – BREWER AND THE JOHN UPDIKE TERRITORIES
Last October 4th, Torres Novas Municipal Library, in Portugal, developed a workshop on John Updike’s works, particularly on his Rabbit series and the fictional city of Brewer, included in the program of a wide seminar called “We, at the Libraries” (Nós, nas Bibliotecas) and focused on links and connections between public libraries, schools and other institutions.
The session “Fictional Geographies – Brewer and the John Updike territories” was developed by Jorge Salgado Simões, geographer and Director of Education and Cultural Affairs Department of Torres Novas Municipality, and participants were teachers and librarians, 12 people in total that got to know different topics on John Updike’s life and works and discussed Brewer’s urban dynamics, compared to global city changes during the last half of the twentieth century.
While listening to a playlist of music themes referred to by Harry Angstrom, participants were also invited to draw a possible map or representation from a passage of Rabbit Is Rich, concluding about the freedom we can find in fictional places and the different readings that they offer us.
Below is a photo of the group, and a representative drawing.
On her blog, The Thinking Housewife, Laura Wood published an entry titled “E. Michael Jones on John Updike” that considers Updike in the context of what Christopher Lasch called “the Culture of Narcissism.”
Given the recent essay on the Christian roommates in The John Updike Review, what she and her responders have to say might be of interest.
“According to Jones, ‘Literature used to be a WASP avocation. It is now a Jewish business, and John Updike, because of his narcissism and his moral defections, enabled the transition from the former to the latter state.'”
Robert Matzen published a piece on his blog titled “Umbrella Man,” in which he talks about maybe writing about the fate of TWA Flight 3 and recalls the book Six Seconds in Dallas buy Josiah Thompson and John Updike’s response to reading it.
“Six Seconds in Dallas appeared in 1967, nearly 50 years ago, and now Tink [Thompson] is advanced in age, but he popped up in a fascinating Youtube video that had been forwarded to me, and I delighted in the concept he described—a concept developed by Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist John Updike in response to reading Thompson’s book.”
“The truth about those seconds in Dallas is especially elusive,” Updike wrote in 1967; “the search for it seems to demonstrate how perilously empiricism verges on magic.”
And now Thompson is quoting Updike. “‘In historical research,’ says Thompson of the Updike position, ‘there may be a dimension similar to the quantum dimension in physical reality. If you put any event under a microscope, you will find a whole dimension of completely weird, incredible things going on. It’s as if there’s the macro level of historical research, where things sort of obey natural laws and the usual things happen and unusual things don’t happen, and then there’s this other level where everything is really weird.'”
Blogger Matzen writes, “Seeing the YouTube video and reading Updike’s original think piece [in The New Yorker] hit me like a pumpkin to the head because I had spent years trying to sort out the circumstances leading up to the crash of Flight 3— circumstances that should have been sortable and explainable but read like Fiction 101. The crash of Flight 3 and the reasons why Carole Lombard died on the plane with 21 others fit perfectly with Updike’s subatomic realm because the more we apply the rules of man’s physical world, the less the story makes sense.”
Here’s the entire article: “Umbrella Man.”
Brooklyn Magazine printed a fun piece titled “The Literary United States: A Map of the Best Book for Every State,” and John Updike made writer Kristin Iversen’s list.
The surprise? It wasn’t Pennsylvania or even Massachusetts that put Updike on this literary map. It was Rhode Island.
“41. Rhode Island: The Witches of Eastwick, John Updike.”
In “Cast Aside: John Updike’s posthumous reputation,” The Skinny: Independent Cultural Journalism, a teaser reads,
“As John Updike biographer Adam Begley appears at Manchester Literature Festival this month[Tuesday, Oct. 14, 6 p.m.], we consider the posthumous reputation of one of America’s best-known writers. It’s arguably never been at a lower ebb, but should this be so?”
Never mind that it’s debatable Updike’s reputation has ebbed, because he’s always had admirers and detractors.
For a springboard, writer Jim Troeltsch uses Updike himself.
“John Updike, speaking in 2005, four years before his death: ‘Reputations do subside, is one of the conclusions I’ve drawn. Your life as a famous writer, like your life as a human being, is limited, and now that we all live so long, a lot of us live to see ourselves become faded reputations. I don’t know if that’s true of me or not—I try not to think about it too much.’ The subtext’s pretty transparent; even then Updike knew his reputation, at least as a novelist, was waning.”
Never mind that Troeltsch may have been reading too much into Updike’s statement. What follows is a discussion that begins with often-cited dismissals by James Wood, Harold Bloom, and Gore Vidal and a subsequent dismissal of the charges that Updike is a misogynist without much else to say.
“To label Updike a misogynistic narcissist and leave it at [that] is surely to miss the point. Was Proust a longwinded snob? Joyce a drunken lech? Céline a crazed anti-Semite? Yes; but do such things really matter when it comes to judging their work on its own terms (even when such odious traits are shared by their characters)?
“The novel’s a container of consciousness—the author’s. And when the consciousness, as in Updike’s case, is so great as to allow us to apprehend the world anew, to actually augment our reality—to really do this; to make us see the tea-soaked sugar cube in the shaded sandstone farmhouse—then perhaps we should put the faults to one side and say: yes, maybe this really is enough.”
In a review of The Centaur published in the February 1, 1963 issue of The New York Review of Books, now online, Jonathan Miller takes Updike to task for “a poor novel irritatingly marred by good features.”
“Updike’s didactic allegory suffers by contrast with the delicacy with which Joyce uses the myth of Daedalus. . . . Updike’s quotations, his pretentious index, and interpolated episodes of mythical narrative simply provide an irritating distraction.”
One has to wonder what Miller’s reaction was when The Centaur was awarded the National Book Award. And John Updike Society members who listened to Adam Sexton gush about how his students at the Parsons School of Design really respond to The Centaur will wonder if Miller read the same book.
Here’s the whole review: “Off-Centaur.”
“Through a journey of personal photographs and insight, David Updike, son of Pulitzer Prize winning author and Shillington native John Updike, spoke about his father’s childhood Oct. 2. . . .
“A slide show of photographs from John’s childhood accompanied Updike. Very few images of the inside of his father’s Shillington home exist, but the remnants of John Updike’s creativity survive. . . .
“‘Very early on he was aware of his authorship,’ he said, standing before a projection screen showing a photograph of his father’s practice signatures from when he was a boy. . . .
“‘His mother must have been startled and had to understand that this is no ordinary child,’ David said. ‘She kept his early works in a notebook.”
Here’s the whole article: “David Updike shares stories of father’s past.”
Act Two Magazine, with its tagline “Living the second half of life,” profiled “Updike on Art” with a mini-review of Always Looking: Essays on Art.
“Updike creates a perfect balance between his text and the art so that the reader can see what he saw as he analyzed it, a counterpoise between his personal love of art and the historical perspectives about these works he admired.”