June 2010

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The 1970 film adaptation of Rabbit, Run, starring James Caan as Rabbit Angstrom and Carrie Snodgress as Janice, is now available from the Warner Bros. Archive Collection “on demand”—meaning that the product is manufactured when ordered from Amazon.com, Critics Choice Video, or another vendor. The film wasn’t highly regarded by the public, the critics, or John Updike, which may account for why it’s so seldom reviewed or seen, and why it’s part of the enormous archive of lesser and lesser-known films. But that’s a step up from 2007, when the Reading Eagle reported that the film celebrated native son John Updike and sealed Reading in a celluloid time capsule, but was all but impossible to find. Not so anymore. What once cost hundreds or even a thousand dollars is now in the $25-27 dollar range.

“I felt sad for the actors,” Updike was quoted as saying. “James Caan and Carrie Snodgress were terrific as Rabbit and his wife, and I always had a lingering hope that some day Warner might remake some of the weak scenes and then give the movie another push.” Spoken like a true, compulsive revisionist.

Tomorrow, July 1, is the last day to get the advance registration discount for The First Biennial John Updike Society Conference at Alvernia University, Reading, Pa. If you haven’t registered yet, or if you’re undecided, please have another look at the Conference registration form/information.pdf. The first week in October is a great week for fall color in Pennsylvania. Give yourself a four-day weekend. You deserve it.

The typewriter recently auctioned by Christie’s that belonged to John Updike will be displayed at the First Biennial John Updike Society Conference at Alvernia University this October 1-3, thanks to the generosity of the winning bidder.

Californian Steve Soboroff, who collects typewriters once owned by famous authors, bid $4,375 to get the Updike Olympia “electric 65c” typewriter with metal typewriter cart in order to add to a growing collection that includes typewriters once used by Ernest Hemingway, George Bernard Shaw, Jack London, Tennessee Williams, and songwriter John Lennon. Yep, that John Lennon.

So the Updike typewriter is in good company and seems to have found a good home . . . and an owner with a good heart. Soboroff contacted the Society and offered to loan it for the conference, and so it will be exhibited in Reading, Pa. this October for all to see.

An interesting story about Soboroff appears in the Palisadian-Post, which provides details not only about his collection but also about his accomplishments and standing in the community. And like Updike, he has a Harvard connection. He was honored in the past as the Harvard Business School “Business Statesman of the Year” by the Southern California chapter.

John Updike: A Bibliography of Primary and Secondary Materials, 1948-2007, by members Jack De Bellis and Michael Broomfield (Oak Knoll Press, 2007) , is among the 52 books being considered for the 15th ILAB Breslauer Prize for Bibliography, awarded by the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers. It’s the kind of competition of which Updike himself would have approved, with jurors coming together to handle and discuss the books before making their final choice. The prize is awarded every four years.

Dale Estey wrote in Red Room: where the writers are that literary agent Andrew Wylie, who represents the John Updike Estate, is threatening to bypass publishers and sell authors’ e-book rights directly to Google, Amazon, or Apple.

Here’s the story.

Sam Tanenhaus, editor of the New York Times Book Review, got permission to have a sneak peek at the Updike archive now being catalogued at the Houghton. And he talks with Jeffrey Brown about his experience and thoughts about Updike for Art Beat on the PBS NEWS HOUR website.

Here’s the link to “Conversation: Archive Offers Revealing Look at John Updike.”

Updike in Pennsylvania: The First Biennial John Updike Society Conference has been getting a lot of press lately, but members and soon-to-be members wanting to attend this historic event, Oct. 1-3 at Alvernia University, are reminded that July 1 is the deadline to register at the special discount rate of $85. After July 1 the price of basic registration goes up to $120, so take time out to send in your form and save some money. Join us in Updike country, Berks County, Penn., for tours of the Updike homes and sites, panels featuring family members and friends, scenes from the Rabbit tetralogy performed by the Reading Community Players Theatre, presentations by scholars from eight different countries, and keynote speakers Ann Beattie and Lincoln Perry. It will be a memorable experience!

Here’s the PDF for the program details, registration form, and travel/hotel information:  UPDIKE IN PENNSYLVANIA.pdf

Yesterday’s New York Times had an update on the Updike archive that was deposited at the Houghton Library at Harvard University. The story also has some nice information about Updike’s college years, work (and play) habits, and the value of the archival materials at the Houghton—which “crowds an aisle and a half of metal shelving in the basement.” Here’s the link, with thanks going to member Quentin Miller for calling our attention to it. The photo of archivists unpacking and shelving the material is copyrighted by Houghton Library.

Here’s an earlier story about the archive from the Houghton blog.

Poet Evelyn Lau, who gained notoriety for Runaway: Diary of a Street Kid (1989), an autobiographical account of coping in a world of drugs and prostitution in Vancouver, B.C., and also for her much-publicized alleged romantic involvement with creative writing professor and writer W.P. Kinsella (Shoeless Joe, 1982), has published a poem online in The Walrus titled “Dear Updike,” which begins with an epigraph from Updike’s “On Being a Self Forever.”

Here’s the link.

John Updike’s typewriter is for sale.

Christie’s Auction House has listed John Updike’s Olympia “electric 65c” typewriter with cover and metal typewriter cart as Lot Number 318 in Sale 2328, Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts Including Americana. The estimate for the typewriter is $4000-$6000. June 22, 2010 is the date of the auction.

The lot description dates the typewriter from 1967-68, probably purchased when Updike lived with his family in London from 1968-69 not long after he wrote Couples. Of interest is the ribbon, which passed only once and recorded a speech for a Gordon College commencement, a paragraph on writing well, a letter regarding an intro he wrote for Kafka’s Complete Short Stories, and a letter to his typist. According to Christie’s, “the typewriter was given to one of his daughters about 15 years before his death.”

Call it a case of bad timing. The Society is in the process of establishing an archive, with several collections already donated. But we’re just a little too new to have the money to purchase something like this to preserve for future museum display.  The Updike typewriter is one of two in the sale, with Jack Kerouac’s priced in the $20,000 range. But the Updike typewriter is priced in the same range as a manuscript of Walt Whitman’s, and higher than a typed and signed letter from J.D. Salinger.

UPDATE:  Christie’s lists the price realized as $4,375 for the typewriter.