Levine-witchesVolume 4, Number 1 (Fall 2015) of The John Updike Review was recently published. The journal, edited by James Schiff and Nicola Mason and published by the University of Cincinnati and The John Updike Society, features a striking (and strikingly playful) David Levine drawing of Updike as one of his alter ego witches.

It’s an appropriate graphic, since Schiff’s innovative “Three Writers on . . .” section this issue features three different takes on The Widows of Eastwick, Updike’s 2008 sequel to The Witches of Eastwick (1984).

In addition to essays on Widows from Judie Newman (“Updike’s Black Widows: The Widows of Eastwick“), James Plath (“The Widows of Eastwick: Updike’s Book of the Dead . . . or Rather, Dying”) and Schiff (“A Second Look at The Widows of Eastwick: Aging Women, Assuaging Guilt, and Updike’s Sequels”), the issue features an Updike bibliography from Schiff and four essays:

“Male Sexuality in John Updike’s Villages,” by Brian Duffy

“Betrayal by Sandstone Farmhouse: Forgiveness in Updike’s ‘Pigeon Feathers’ and ‘The Cats,'” by Peter J. Bailey

“John Updike in Dialogue with J.D. Salinger,” by David Penn, and

“Updike in Love,” by Donald J. Greiner.

If you are a member and you haven’t received your copy yet, either you live abroad and it’s on its way, or you moved and forgot to tell the society. The John Updike Society is free to members. To join or to send an address update, contact James Plath, jplath@iwu.edu. For information on institutional subscriptions only, contact James Schiff, james.schiff@uc.edu.

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 5.56.33 PMRomper.com today posted a list article by Lindsay Mack, “11 Books With Amazing Sequels, So You Can Keep On Reading,” and one of the 11 she selected was John Updike’s The Witches of Eastwick and The Widows of Eastwick. In fact, they’re the first books on her list.

“John Updike’s The Witches of Eastwick follows the adventures of three women who find themselves beset with amazing powers, as well as the interest of an intriguing newcomer to the town. And this bitingly humorous story continues with The Widows of Eastwick, in which the trio reconvenes 30 years later to come to terms with their pasts.”

And, one might add, aging . . . a frequent theme of Updike’s.

Also making her list: Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan; The Other Boleyn Girl and The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory; Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow and Children of God; Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and No Longer at Ease; The Shining and Dr. Sleep by Stephen King; Amitav Gosh’s Sea of Poppies and River of Smoke; Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You and After You; Gregory Maguire’s Wicked and Son of a Witch; War Horse and Farm Boy by Michael Morpurgo; and Kent Haruf’s Plainsong and Eventide.

Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 5.14.05 PMWriter Sebastian Faulks shared his six favorite books with The Week, and one of them is by John Updike.

In “Sebastian Faulks’ 6 favorite books,” posted 6 Feb. 2016, he names, in no apparent order, A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr, Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad, The Rack by A.E. Ellis, The House on Moon Lake by Francesca Duranti, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark, and Endpoint, by Updike.

In choosing the latter Faulks writes, “John Updike kept writing even as he lay dying in the hospital: the man as pen. In his last poems he gives thanks for his life and his ability to write in verses that are unsentimental and at times deeply moving. An Updike character once said that in death what he would most miss was not being alive, but being American. A wonderful farewell to his readers.”

Faulks recent novel is Where My Heart Used to Beat, a work of historical fiction about a psychiatrist who comes to terms with memories of World War II and his father’s past.

HiesterRichardCLR_20160205Richard K. Hiester died on Jan. 31, 2016 at the age of 86. Though he was employed for 35 years by Dana Corp. and though he was a U.S. Navy veteran who served during the Korean Conflict, he was perhaps best known in Berks County for his basketball prowess and for his nickname: “Rabbit.” John Updike, three years his junior at Shillington H.S., famously appropriated the nickname in creating his most famous fictional character, Harry Angstrom, the protagonist of four novels and a novella—two of which would win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Memorials can be made to Heartland Hospice, 4 Park Plaza, Wyomissing, PA 19610, or Home Instead Senior Care, 881 Marcon Blvd., Suite 3700, Allentown, PA  18109. Other condolences can be offered on the website of Edward J. Kuhn Funeral Home, www.kuhnfuneralhome.com. The society offers its sincere condolences to his children, Brian D., husband of Kathleen Hiester, Wernersville, and Todd K. Hiester, Sinking Spring, and his grandchildren.

Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 8.03.01 AMIn reviewing Living on Paper: Letters from Iris Murdoch, 1934-1995 (Princeton Univ. Press) for the National Post, Robert Fulford cited John Updike prominently. His review begins,

“Dame Iris Murdoch, a much-admired novelist for several decades, was also a bold sexual adventuress. Perhaps she was a love addict before that term was popularized in the 1970s (and with it the 12-step program, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous). She had many lovers and a close attention to sex was crucial in her life and art.

“According to John Updike, love was for Murdoch what the sea was for Joseph Conrad and war was for Ernest Hemingway. Updike considered her the leading English novelist of her time and believed she learned the human condition through her relationships. Her tumultuous love life, he wrote, was ‘a long tutorial in suffering, power, treachery, and bliss.’ Updike believed that in reading her novels he could feel the ideas, images and personalities of her life pouring through her.”

“The intimate biography of Iris Murdoch,” by Robert Fulford

Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 6.03.56 PMIn case you missed the talk on “Family Archaeology: Pictures, Objects, Words” that David Updike gave at the Third Biennial John Updike Society Conference at Alvernia University, you can see him deliver that same presentation at the Belmont Public Library, 336 Concord Ave., Belmont, Mass., at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 25.

David, the oldest son of John Updike, is also an accomplished author, and books will be available for sale and signing after the presentation, which is succinctly described on the Library’s Web site: “David Updike combines family photographs with prose from John Updike’s stories and memoirs, in addition to excerpts from short stories written by John’s mother, to reveal important aspects of John Updike’s early life.”

For additional details, call the library at (617) 489-2000.

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 7.39.15 AMThe John Updike Society has proposed to sponsor a panel on “Updike in Context” at this year’s American Literature Association Conference in San Francisco.

Chair: Judith Newman, University of Nottingham

“What Does Secularism Smell Like? Political Theology and John Updike’s The Coup,” Scott Dill, Case Western Reserve University

“After the Thrill Is Gone: Updike after the Cold War,” Matthew Shipe, Washington University

“Updike’s Visions of the South: From the U.S. South in The Poorhouse Fair toward the Postcolonial Caribbean South,” Takashi Nakatani, Yokohama City University

ALA has a committee that reviews all proposals and we should be hearing from them shortly.

Yesterday The Christian Science Monitor printed a piece titled “My ‘Updike year’—why I appreciate the man more now than ever” in its Books/Chapter & Verse section. In it, Danny Heitman writes that he had made it a point to read as many of John Updike’s books as he could in 2015, but, being a slow reader, he “managed to read only a fraction of the Updike canon, poking around mostly in the personal essays and criticism collected in a half a dozen volumes, including Odd Jobs, Hugging the Shore and Picked-up Pieces.”

About the experience, he writes, “What I remember most vividly from my year of Updike isn’t a particular subject or turn of phrase; he wrote about everything from baseball to cemeteries to the postal service with precision, wit, and a mastery of language that defies easy summary. No, the most abiding memory of my Updike year is the heroic moderation of the man—his quiet insistence on teasing out an insight with subtlety and grace, never raising his voice. . . .

“That voice continues to be a tonic for me as I negotiate the noise of the headlines, the extremism of the political culture, the venom-tinged pronouncements of the Twittersphere. Updike’s been gone for seven years now, but his work endures, and we need it now more than ever.”

Heitman is a columnist for The Advocate newspaper in Louisiana and the author of A Summer of Birds: John James Audubon at Oakley House.

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 8.11.18 AMTwo essays on Updike scholarship have come to our attention, one newly discovered and the other newly published:

Newly discovered:

“Fire, Sun, Moon: Kundalini Yoga in John Updike’s S.: A Novel,” by Sukhbir Singh, in The Comparatist 38 (October 2014): 266-96, published by The University of North Carolina Press. Full text

Newly published:

“Modernist Narrative Techniques and Challenges of Humanity: John Updike in European Perspective,” by Biljana Dojčinović, in From Humanism to Meta-, Post- and Transhumanism Vol. 8. Ed. Irina Deretic and Stefan Lorenz Sorgner. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2016. Synopsis-Contents




Today, Jan. 25, 2016, Boston Globe Columnist Alex Beam considered Updike’s last poem, “Fine Point,” a meditation on the 23rd Psalm and interviewed Martha and David Updike to ask them about John’s belief in God and the hereafter.

According to Martha, in hospice care “he always had the Book of Common Prayer on our bed—he knew it very well.” She added, “John always believed that there was evidence of God’s work in the world.”

David, meanwhile, was quoted as saying, “I certainly think he wanted to believe, have complete faith, but there remained a seed of doubt, or fear.”

Here’s a link to the whole column and a spin-off story on WBGH News.

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