Society member to teach Updike stories in travel course

John Updike Society member Christopher Love, who directs American Writers in France study-abroad for The University of Alabama, said that he will teach Updike as one of the mid-20th century writers who resided in or traveled in France—a course he said will include James Baldwin and Jack Kerouac.

Two stories that Love plans on teaching are “Museums and Women” and “Avec La Bebe-Sitter,” but he is asking members who have advice on additional stories or have useful knowledge about connections between Updike and France, French writers, French art, etc., to email him ( Since many society members tend to like Hemingway as well, Love added that his new non-fiction book, Crimson Code: The Price of Success, will launch at an April 27 event at a Tuscaloosa, Ala. bookstore named Ernest and Hadley.

YouTube podcaster offers a costumed Gertrude and Claudius review

Well here’s a different kind of take on John Updike’s 2000 novel that’s unlike any other:  Jordan Falotico’s YouTube Channel review of Gertrude and Claudius—Updike’s creative prequel to Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Falotico was almost as creative with their review, dressing up as both Gertrude and Claudius to deliver an acted-out on-camera assessment in character(s).

“In this little novel here, it all makes perfect sense,” Jordan-as-Gertrude said.

“Well, that concludes this episode of The Royal Tea,” Jordan-as-Claudius said. “We all hope you have a better understanding of how Gertie and I fell in love with each other and how we came to be. We hope that we were able to clear the air, put to rest some of the gossip, and answer some of your dying, fire-inside, whatever, questions.”

“Ultimately,” Jordan-as-Gertrude added, “Claudius and I think this is a great book. It clears up a lot for us. We think that Mr. Updike did a great job of really explaining the history of our love and how it came to be.”


The most popular book the year you were born?

Angel Madison and Zarah A. Kavarana scoured the best-seller and awards lists and came up with an article on The Most Popular Book the Year You Were Born, starting with 1945.

If you happen to have been born in 1981, the most popular book that year was John Updike’s Rabbit Is Rich, the third installment in the famed novelist’s Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom quartet of novels about a middle-aged middle-class American male who peaked in high school as a basketball star.

Have a look to see what was at the top of everyone’s “to read” list back when you were born.

Updike’s ‘Little Violet’ Ipswich home is for sale

If you’re a John Updike fan and an old house fan—this one was built in 1832—and if $850,000 is within your budget, you should know that J. Barret & Co. recently listed the property at 68-70 Essex Road for sale.

The house was known as “Little Violet” when Updike and first-wife Mary lived in the house for 10 months before buying the Polly Dole House on East Street in Ipswich. It was their first residence in Ipswich, where the town commemorated Updike’s presence with a plaque on the side of the Choate Bridge building where he maintained a second-floor office years later.

As a Local News story points out, Updike turned a marble-floored room at the back of Little Violet into a study where he wrote. The article notes that Updike’s first chore at any house he bought was to make sure the mailbox or mail slot was fully functional and accessible. He wrote a poem about “Planting a Mailbox” first thing after moving into Little Violet.

Updike panels set for ALA 2024

Chicago’s Palmer House will welcome back the American Literature Association Conference the end of May, once again opening its world-famous Tiffany peacock doors to scholars from all over the world.

The John Updike Society will sponsor two panels:

Friday, May 24, 11:30 a.m.-12:50 p.m. Session 10-M “Revisiting Olinger Stories(1964) at 60 and The Afterlife(1994) at 30: A Roundtable” (Salon 6)

  • Moderator: Sylvie Mathé, Aix-Marseille University, France
  • Peter Bailey, St. Lawrence University, NY
  • Biljana Dojčinović, University of Belgrade, Serbia
  • Nemanja Glintić, Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, China
  • James Plath, Illinois Wesleyan University
  • Matthew Shipe, Washington University in St. Louis, MO

Saturday, May 25, 8:30-9:50 a.m. Session 16-J “The Witches of Eastwick: novel (John Updike, 1984) v. film (George Miller, 1987): A Roundtable” (Salon 7)

  • Moderator: Adam Sexton, Yale University
  • Edward Allen, University of South Dakota
  • Carla Alexandra Ferreira, Federal University of São Carlos, Brazil
  • Olga Karasik-Updike, Independent Scholar, Newbury, MA
  • Robert Morace, Daemen University, Amherst, NY
  • Takashi Nakatani, Yokohama City University, Japan

Here’s a link to the most recent draft program.

Observer reader writes Updike was ‘no monk’

One of the March 10, 2024 letters to The Observer (U.K.), The Guardian‘s Sunday magazine, writes in a letter given the headline “Updike was no monk”:

“Tomiwa Owolade writes persuasively about the rewards of ritual in a simple life, but he might want to think again about describing John Updike as a “happy monk” (“Make coffee. Shower. Clean the loo. In an age of choice, rituals are the key to happiness”).

The great writer was serially unfaithful, seeking comfort in religious faith and sexual adventure. As Updike explained it: ‘If you have a secret, submerged, second life, you have somehow transcended or outwitted the confines of a single life.’ That’s one way of excusing infidelity.”
Suzy Powling
Leiston, Suffolk

Updike’s take on Jong’s Fear of Flying

As part of their feminist classics series which looks at influential books, The Conversation featured an article on “Sex, zips and feminism: Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying has a joyful abandon rarely found in today’s sad girl novels” in which John Updike was quoted.

“Interestingly though, another male writer, John Updike, helped Jong’s rise up the bestseller list. Even so, his compliments can read as backhanded as Goodlove’s:

It has class and sass, brightness and bite. Containing all the cracked eggs of the feminist litany, her soufflé rises with a poet’s afflatus. She sprinkles on the four-letter words as if women had invented them; her cheerful sexual frankness brings a new flavor to female prose.

“Updike favourably links Jong with great male writers J.D. Salinger and Philip Roth, while carefully distinguishing her from the more disagreeable women’s liberationists:

Fear of Flying not only stands as a notably luxuriant and glowing bloom in the sometimes thistly garden of ‘raised’ feminine consciousness but belongs to, and hilariously extends, the tradition of Catcher in the Rye and Portnoy’s Complaint.

“Pull quotes from Updike’s review featured on the novel’s second edition (the one I have been reading), along with a new cover: a luscious 70s serif typeface in black and orange on a yellow background that blatantly copies the 1969 cover of Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint.”

Updike’s Couples makes The Atlantic’s redefined Great American Novels list

The Great Gatsby is often cited as a contender for that elusive (and purely speculative) title of “Great American Novel,” and editors of The Atlantic used that novel as a starting point for reconsidering what that term actually means in order to construct their own list of “The Great American Novels.”

The editors decided to define “American” as having been first published in the U.S., they narrowed the field to the past 100 years (“a period that began as literary modernism was cresting”), and they approached “scholars, critics, and novelists, both at The Atlantic and outside it” asking for suggestions. Their aim: “the very best—novels that say something intriguing about the world and do it distinctively, in intentional, artful prose.” That resulted in a list of 136 books, and if you break that list down by decades it looks like this: 7 from the ’20s, 9 from the ’30s, 7 from the ’40s, 13 from the ’50s, 15 from the ’60s, 19 from the ’70s, 12 from the ’80s, 16 from the ’90s, 14 from the ’00s, 21 from the ’10s, and 3 from the current young decade—reflecting, perhaps, a fairly large familiarity factor based on the ages of those who weighed in.

“This list includes 45 debut novels, nine winners of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction [Updike’s two winners from the Rabbit series didn’t make the cut], and three children’s books. . . . At least 60 have been banned by schools or libraries. Together, they represent the best of what novels can do: challenge us, delight us, pull us in and then release us, a little smarter and a little more alive than we were before.”

Of Couples, one of the editors writes, “Couples caused a scandal when it was first published, but it was easy for Updike to weather. Having written a novel about suburban adultery before such novels were commonplace, he anticipated some outrage. No matter: The fainting-couch wailing only made him more famous. But what did matter to Updike were the friendships that he nuked. The book was a thinly disguised ethnography of his bored and prosperous social set in Ipswich, Massachusetts, which was torn between rigid WASPy mores and the enticements of the sexual revolution. Not all of his friends forgave him. How could they? It’s one thing to have your dinner-party pretensions and proto-polyamory exposed on the page. It’s quite another to have them rendered in precise lyrical prose by an all-time great American stylist. Nearly 60 years on, their loss is still our gain.”