September 2010

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In a New York Times story posted September 25, Charles McGrath observed the 50th anniversary of Ted William’s last game, “in which, with an impeccable sense of occasion, he hit a home run, a miraculous line drive to deep right center, in his final at-bat.” McGrath, who knew Updike well, noted that among the fans was “28-year-old John Updike, who had actually scheduled an adulterous assignation that day. But when he reached the woman’s apartment, on Beacon Hill, he found that he had been stood up: no one was home. ‘So I went, as promised, to the game,’ he wrote years later, ‘and my virtue was rewarded.'” Here’s the link to the full story, in which McGrath also pays tribute to Updike’s “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu” as “the most celebrated baseball essay ever.”

The previews are starting to appear. On September 22, Louis M. Shucker wrote an article for the Reading Eagle about the conference, focusing on the teacher’s seminar being offered on the first day. Then, on September 22, Steve Siegel contributed a feature on the upcoming conference to The Morning Call in Allentown. Countdown to the Society’s first conference:  six days.

Rev. John Brown, who recently retired from active ministry with the United Church of Canada and became the Society’s 206th member, writes:

On Feb. 12, 1997 Updike gave a reading at the University of Toronto, promoting In the Beauty of the Lilies. I stayed awake all night thinking of questions I might ask. I was lucky. The moderator allowed me two. “Could you tell us something about the place of God and faith in your work and in your personal life?” and “Of the many sexual encounters of your characters, which one did you have the most fun writing about?” He gave generous answers to both, but provided nothing by way of identification for the second.

While he was signing Collected Poems for me, I volunteered, “I’m the guy who asked the question about sex.” “Oh, you’re the one causing all the trouble,” he said. There was quite a pause before he signed In the Beauty of the Lilies. It wasn’t until I was outside the hall when I read the inscription: “For John, Best wishes and stop thinking about sex! John Updike”

Around that time as well he was interviewed by Eleanor Wachtel on our CBC radio programme, “Writers and Company.” He had asked about Rabbit, noting how in many ways he was such an unsavory character and yet how accepting John was of him. He replied, “Well, I created him; how could I be unkind?” What a divine statement. I have quoted it in sermons many times.

Rev. John Brown

For those who may not have stumbled across it while Web surfing, here’s a link to “Remembering a round with John Updike,” written by Michael Bamberger, Senior Writer for Sports Illustrated, and published last fall. Thanks to Jack De Bellis for drawing it to our attention.

My own memory is NOT sharing a round. In Key West, John asked me to join him and Chris Keane at the local public course, which has tarpon in the some of the water hazards and one hole with no fairway—just a drive over mangrove swamp to a green on the other side—but I told him he’d lose all respect for me if I played a round with him.

Penn State University Libraries recently posted a page announcing that they have acquired the manuscripts for Buchanan Dying, and a “web tour” still under construction suggests they may also have manuscripts for Memories of the Ford Administration.

Archivists at Penn State University Libraries have chosen a scene between James Buchanan and Anne Coleman and uploaded PDF scans from the first two drafts through the third set of proofs showing how the scene changed significantly and dramatically.

Here’s the link.

Andrew Wylie, agent for the Estate of John Updike, today informed The John Updike Society that “the Estate of John Updike is in the process of selecting a definitive biographer.”

No further details are known, but we suspect that Mr. Wylie will keep the Society posted.