October 2009

You are currently browsing the monthly archive for October 2009.

The Harvard Crimson reported on Wednesday that the newly acquired Updike archive includes “two unpublished Updike novels, slated to come out in twenty years,” that have “already been guaranteed to the Library for study.” According to curator Leslie A. Morris, “There will be a lot of surprises, I’m sure.”Crimson writer Michelle B. Timmerman reported that the current archive takes up 308 linear feet and that it “will take an estimated two years to sort through.”

The Houghton just requested an institutional membership in The John Updike Society (Welcome!), and Leslie Morris clarified a few things for us:

“There are two early, unpublished pieces in the Updike archive: Home and Go Away. These have been on deposit with us for many years, with access restricted by John Updike to those who had his written permission. The Literary Estate has requested that the two novels be restricted for 20 years, until 1 October 2029. Additionally, the newly acquired materials will not be available for research until catalogued, a process estimated to take about two years (some materials, such as his own publications and annotated books from his library, will be available more quickly). The material that was given to the Library during John Updike’s lifetime, listed here, will continue to be available for research until we reach the point where we are ready to ‘fold it in’ to the rest.”

The Criterion: An International Online Journal of Literatures in English and Language Studies, has put out a call for Indian scholars to submit papers for a special issue on John Updike, to be titled “Indian Perspectives on John Updike.”

In announcing the special issue, editor Vishwanath Bite writes, “One of the most critically respected and popular contemporary American authors, John Updike died in January 2009. We propose to bring this volume in his memory and expose Indian thoughts over his literary works. Updike has amassed a large and ever-growing body of best-selling novels, acclaimed volumes of short stories, essays, and poetry since his arrival on the literary scene in the late 1950s. An incessant chronicler of post-war American customs and morals, Updike alternately finds humor, tragedy, and pathos in the small crises and quandries of middle-class existence, particularly its sexual and religious hang-ups. His trademark fiction, largely informed by Christian theology, classical mythology, and popular culture, is distinguished for its broad erudition, wit, and descriptive opulence.”

The Call for Papers from Prof. Bite suggests possible topics on “Updike’s distinct prose style, the realist tradition in a literary mode of Updike, description of the real world over imaginative or idealized representations in Updike’s novels, the portrayal of the physical world and everyday life in Updike, the problem of faith and morality in the modern post-Christian world, autobiographical elements in Updike’s novels, spiritual quest for self-fulfillment and meaning, post-war American social history in Updike’s novels, the domestic reality of suburban middle-class American life, marital tensions, sexual behavior, relationships between men and women, religious beliefs in contemporary society, magic realism, American and Third-World ideology, a reinterpretation of the medieval Tristan and Isole legend, religious doubt, mediocrity, fame, and fanaticism, humor, clever linguistic turns and sophisticated witticisms, and Updike’s poetry.”

Needless to say, it will be fascinating to hear what Indian scholars have to say about Updike, and we thank member Pradipta Sengupta for alerting us to the journal, which she says is projected to be published online in January 2010.

In May 2010, The Library of America will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ted Williams’ memorable last at-bat by publishing a special commemorative edition of John Updike’s “splendid essay,” “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu.”

According to Christopher Carduff, consulting editor for The Library of America, the text was in-progress before Updike assembled Endpoint and was finished on January 15, 2009, two weeks before his death. “Its centerpiece is the version of ‘Hub Fans’ that Updike published in Assorted Prose (1965), with a few slight textual revisions,” Carduff said. “To this Updike added a short ‘auto-bibliographical’ preface written specially for the book and, as a kind of afterword, a conflation and rewrite of his other Ted Williams essays, the late-life sketch from Sport magazine (1986) and the obituary tribute from The New York Times Magazine (2002).”

The book, a special publication of The Library of America, will be priced at $15 U.S. ($18.50 Canadian). The trim size is 5 1/4 x 7 1/2″, and it’s 64 pages long, with frontispiece and illustrated endpapers. Library of America publicity calls it “the classic, final version of the essay,” of which Roger Angell raved, “The most celebrated baseball essay ever,” and Garrison Keillor wrote, “No sportswriter ever wrote anything better.” Even Ted Williams is blurbed: “It has the mystique,” he’s quoted as saying.

As a Viking Press catalog entry describes (and Viking distributes Library of America titles), “On September 28, 1960—a day that will forever live on in the hearts of baseball fans everywhere—Red Sox slugger Ted Williams stepped up to the late for his final at-bat at Fenway Park. Rising to the occasion, he belted a solo home run, a storybook ending to a storied career. In the stands that afternoon was twenty-eight-year-old John Updike, inspired by the historic moment to write what would be his lone venture into the field of sports reporting. more than a mere account of that fabled final game, Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu is a meditation on how Williams’s relentless pursuit of greatness raised excellence in sport to something akin to grace.”

Planned publicity includes national advertising, a special Father’s Day promotion, and events in Boston and nationwide. The dust jacket, Updike aficionados may recognize, is designed by Updike’s longtime Knopf collaborator Chip Kidd. Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu will be available directly from the Library of America or through the usual sources, including Amazon.com.

Harvard University announced today that it has acquired the manuscripts, correspondence, and other papers of John Updike. This is good news for Updike scholars, for it keeps the papers in the university Updike attended and in the same location as all those Lampoon back issues in which many of Updike’s drawings and writing appeared.

Here’s the press release from the Houghton Library:

October 7, 2009 – The John Updike Archive, a vast collection of manuscripts, correspondence, books, photographs, artwork and other papers, has been acquired by Houghton Library, Harvard University’s primary repository for rare books and manuscripts. The Archive forms the definitive collection of Updike material, said Leslie Morris, Curator of Modern Books and Manuscripts at Houghton Library, and will make the library the center for studies on the author’s life and work.

“Many scholars would argue that John Updike is one of, if not the, novelist of the late 20th century,” Morris said. “No one can really write about the American novel without taking Updike into consideration.”

Harvard University President Drew Faust hailed the library’s acquisition of the Archive.

“I am delighted that John Updike’s papers will be at Harvard as a lasting and living tribute to one of the College’s most creative and accomplished graduates,” Faust said, in a statement. “This collection will enable teaching and research that will not just enrich our understanding of a distinguished writer and his work, but will also provide insights into the literary craft and its place in late 20th-century America.”

Although portions of the Archive were given to the library during Updike’s lifetime, and have been available for research at Houghton since 1970, they represented only a small fraction of the full collection. For decades, Updike had been depositing his papers, including manuscripts, correspondence , research files, and even golf score cards, in the library, but the material – since it was only on deposit at Houghton – was available only with the author’s permission, and was not integrated with the material the library owned.

Cataloging the newly acquired material so it can be used by scholars is now one of the library’s “highest priorities,” since the Archive will not be available for research until that process is completed, Morris said. However, scholars will still be able to access materials given to the library by Updike before 1970, including early short story manuscripts written for the New YorkerTelephone Poles, Updike’s early poetry collection; and nearly complete documentation on the creation of the novel that brought him his first taste of fame, Rabbit, Run (1960).

Considering Updike’s close association with Harvard, it seems fitting that the Archive find a permanent home in the Harvard College Library’s collections, said Nancy Cline, the Roy E. Larsen Librarian of Harvard College.

“This collection will be an exciting new addition to Houghton Library’s holdings, and will provide researchers and students with a unique insight into the life and work of one of the major figures in modern American literature,” Cline said.

When the cataloging of the Archive is completed, the Updike Archive will offer students and scholars unparalleled insight not only into the working life of the man hailed as America’s last true man of letters, but into the cultural transformations reflected in his works.

One of the major shifts which can be traced through Updike’s work concerns sex in mainstream literature. Though it may be difficult for today’s students to imagine, attitudes about sex in fiction have changed radically in the past generation, due in no small part to Updike. Close examination of manuscripts and correspondence in the Archive shows that editors often pushed the author to remove passages considered (at the time) too sexually explicit. As cultural attitudes changed, however, later editions would restore those same passages.

“You can see in the physical medium of Updike’s edited manuscripts, how the cultural perception of sex in fiction was changing,” Morris said. “For students accustomed to reading the published text without thinking of what went on behind the scenes to create that finished product, these manuscripts can have a tremendous impact.”

“John Updike left a huge footprint on American letters,” said Louis Menand, the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of English. “For more than fifty years, he was the fictional chronicler of the American middle class, but he was also a prolific critic of literature and art. His papers will be important for scholars and historians working in any number of areas.”

The Boston Globe also reported the story today, in which Society member William Pritchard is quoted. Thanks to member Ken Krawchuk for calling our attention to it. And thanks to Jack De Bellis for adding an update. According to a recent report, Harvard also acquired John Updike’s floppy discs with the other materials purchased.