May 2009

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Donald J. Greiner writes that he was asked to contribute an elegy on Updike for a special issue of Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction, which will include tributes to great American fiction writers who have died the past 15 years or so. The issue is scheduled to be published the last quarter of 2009.

Stephen H. Webb reports that he was asked to write an Updike tribute for the next issue of Christianity and Literature, which will appear soon.


Society member Rob Luscher is working on putting together a panel on Updike for the ALA Symposium on American Fiction 1890 to the Present, which will be held October 8-10, in Savannah, Georgia. The location is the DeSoto Hilton Savannah, situated in the heart of Savannah’s historic theater district and a short walk to River Street. Anyone wishing to propose a paper for the panel should contact Rob directly via email:

Member Ann Cassar, who was a classmate of John Updike’s, informs us that she’s wanting to honor him by acquiring copies of his books for the local library—the Rachel Kohl Community Library, 687 Smithbridge Rd., Glenn Mills, PA 19342. To that end, she’s hoping that Society members who have extra copies will donate them. “He would appreciate this institution, which was founded by a local lady, Rachel Kohl, who was not library-trained nor had experience in obtaining grants, but had a zeal for libraries,” Cassar writes. “She managed to sweet-talk state legislatures, local businesses, and citizens into whatever she needed. You couldn’t say no to Rachel. The library started in a spare closet of the elementary school, moved to a classroom (at which point I became involved), then moved to three trailers donated by the electric company (you had to keep buckets handy for rainy days). Presently, the library is a modern, bright facility, part of the township building, and serves more than 6000 patrons.”

The library’s current collection contains only three Updike books, Ann says, “and they are on a bottom shelf so that you have to lie on your stomach to see what’s there. We have a nice glass-enclosed display case available for featuring various subjects, such as books on tea (teacup collection), mushroom recipes (mushroom figure collection), quilts. I visualize John’s picture and perhaps some mementos, along with some of the books, in a future display.”

So, John Updike Society members, here’s your first outreach opportunity. Please send new or used books in fine condition to Ann Cassar, whose address is listed in the comments section of this post. If members use the comments feature of this website to let others know what book(s) they’re sending, perhaps we can avoid duplication. Non-members are also welcome to participate.

UPDATE: Ann reports that the library has more books than were displayed on the shelf. They currently have (in alphabetical order, with edition year in parentheses): A Child’s Calender (1999), Couples (1968), The Early Stories, 1953-1975 (2003), Gertrude and Claudius (2000), Odd Jobs (1991), Rabbit, Run (1996), Seek My Face (2002), The John Updike Audio Collection (2003), Still Looking: Essays on American Art (2005), Terrorist (2006), Villages (2004), and The Witches of Eastwick (1984).

On June 7, 2009, “A Tribute to John Updike” will celebrate the author’s life and works. The event will be held at the John F. Kennedy Library, Columbia Point, Boston.

The program is scheduled from 3-4 p.m., and advance registration is required (visit Hosted by by radio/internet host Christopher Lydon, who frequently interviewed Updike, the program features authors Nicholson Baker (U & I), Samuel Shem (pen-name, Dr. Stephen Bergman), and Anne Bernays; editor and journalist Charles McGrath, who also interviewed Updike in the past; critic and scholar William Pritchard (Updike: America’s Man of Letters), and Updike family members. The program is presented in conjunction with PEN New England and sponsored by Friends of the Ernest Hemingway Collection and the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.

UPDATE: For those who missed it, C-SPAN has a tape of “A Tribute to John Updike” which runs an hour and two minutes. It aired last on July 6, 2009, and can be viewed or purchased here (link provided by Jack De Bellis).