October 2010

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Member Jack Ruttle passed on the information that not just John Updike’s 1968 interview with Charles Thomas Samuels, but all of the interviews that The Paris Review published with writers are available online now, free.

Here’s the link.

Society member Richard Androne (Albright College) has announced the panel topics for the Society’s offerings at the American Literature Association, May 26-29, 2011, at the Westin Copley Place in Boston.

Updike in Massachusetts. Topics might include, but are not limited to, Updike and Harvard, Updike and Boston, Updike and any aspect of the Ipswich/Beverly/Essex County/North Shore/Salem contexts, Updike and Hawthorne, Updike and the fine arts in Massachusetts.

The Other John Updike. This panel will explore Updike’s work in areas other than prose fiction:  poetry, drama, children’s literature, criticism, reviews, essays, public commentary, and texts in which he assumes the role of man of letters.

If you’re going to be at ALA and wish to submit a proposal, send your abstract directly to Dick via email (randrone@alb.edu) or regular mail (Dept. of English, Albright College, P.O. Box 15234, Reading, PA 19612-5234).

For more information about conference and hotel, click on the left-menu link for the American Literature Association.

Photo: Westin Copley Place (tallest building) and Boston Public Library (right).

Greta Cuyler of the Reading Eagle wrote a nice article about David Updike’s talk at Alvernia University on Tuesday, October 12. Here’s the link.

Meanwhile, Society member Joan Youngerman, who was one of Updike’s Class of 1950 Shillington H.S. classmates, announced Tuesday that she was donating her personal correspondence from John Updike to The John Updike Society Archive at Alvernia. That’s a real treasure trove, and the Society and Alvernia are grateful for the donation.

Earlier in the week, Peter Brown, who lives in Washington, D.C. and teaches fiction writing at The Writer’s Center, contacted the Society to say he will donate two Updike artifacts to the archive, framed magazines featuring Updike on the cover: a 1968 Time and a 1970 Esquire. They will make great additions to the room in which the archives will be housed, and we thank Peter as well.

The Los Angeles Times has published an article about “John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s deportation battle; The couple had powerful friends who helped them fight and win their deportation battle with the Nixon administration.”

One of those “friends” was John Updike, who, with fellow writer Joyce Carol Oates, sent a letter in support of Lennon and Ono. Writer and UC-Irvine professor of history Jon Wiener, who used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the information, has created a website on which he includes a photocopy of the Updike postcard written on their behalf. Wiener tells the whole story in his book, Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files, and the material is also the subject of a documentary, “The U.S. Versus John Lennon.”

It was announced at the conference in Reading and printed in the program that the Society board unanimously voted to give James Yerkes the first Distinguished Service Award. Today, Jim received his award, presented to him by Rich Boulet, director of the Blue Hill Public Library, a literary center in Maine near Yerkes’ home.

“Please express my sincere thanks to members of the Society,” Jim wrote in an email.

Yerkes, Professor of Religion and Philosophy Emeritus and former Provost of Moravian College, was honored for his extensive contributions to Updike scholarship, especially through The Centaurian, which he published from 1996 until it was forced to shut down in 2008.  Yerkes is also well known among Updike scholars for editing John Updike and Religion: The Sense of the Sacred and the Motions of Grace, published by Eerdmans in December of 1999. Updike wrote him afterwards that “I think you got it just right,” and The John Updike Society thanks Jim Yerkes for his many years of service to Updike scholarship and congratulates him on his award. The presentation was reported by the local press, and library director Boulet was kind enough to send a PDF of an article that also appeared in The Ellsworth American: Ellsworth American story

According to Curator of Art and Civilization Scott Schweigert, it’s been three years since the Reading Public Museum has displayed the fountain that made a lasting impression on a young John Updike. “Drinking Girl” (by Edward McCartan) was still in storage during the Society conference in Reading, but members within driving distance will be pleased to learn that this fountain sculpture, which Updike describes in detail in Just Looking (1989), will be on display from October 9, 2010 through January 23, 2011. Schweigert said that because “it’s period,” the bronze girl that captivated young Updike will be displayed as part of the “Tiffany Lamps: Articles of Utility, Objects of Art” exhibit. Museum hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays. They are closed on Mondays. Admission is $8.00. Be warned that though the mummy that affected Updike and the dioramas he described can still be seen, none of the small nude statues that fascinated him are on display.

By all accounts—and I’ve received a number of emails already and talked with many of the conference attendees—the First Biennial John Updike Society Conference was a big hit. People remarked that the quality of papers was high, the blend of information and recreation was perfect, and the conference was full of fun surprises. Like, some people didn’t realize that we actually got to go inside both the Plowville farmhouse and the house at 117 Philadelphia, and also hear from the son of John Updike’s pastor, who told stories about John in the church and read letters from him. It was a surprise, too, to hear Jackie Hirneisen Kendall read a love poem that a 10-year-old John Updike wrote for her. No wonder Updike’s high-school teachers recognized superior talent, because this poem was far beyond what a typical 10 year old can write.

Read Bruce R. Posten’s account in the Reading Eagle.

There were far too many highlights to list, but the family panel (with Mary Weatherall, Elizabeth Cobblah, Michael Updike, and Miranda Updike) was certainly one of them, as was the classmates panel featuring Kendall, Joan Youngerman, Harlan Boyer, and Jimmy Trexler, who had plenty of Updike stories to share. Keynote speakers Ann Beattie and Lincoln Perry also wowed the audience, and after hearing Don Greiner talk about the early days of Updike scholarship everyone got a full sense of just how far Updike scholarship has come. Both tours of the area were much appreciated, but so was the fellowship among scholars and devoted readers of Updike. It was a wonderful group that gathered here in Reading.

Next stop? Boston! At the business meeting it was announced that Suffolk University will host the Second Biennial John Updike Society Conference, with member Quentin Miller (author of John Updike and the Cold War: Drawing the Iron Curtain and a professor at Suffolk) acting as site director. Miller has experience hosting a conference at Suffolk, and he’ll be assisted by myself and by Bernie Rodgers of Bard College at Simon’s Rock, who’s the editor of the forthcoming Critical Insights: John Updike). Rodgers has agreed to serve as the program director. Possible side trips include an afternoon at Harvard seeing Updike-related sites and some of the Houghton Library treasures; a trip to the Ipswich and Beverly Farms areas, where Updike spent much of his writing life after he left Pennsylvania; and Hawthorne-related trips to Salem and Concord. Since the conference will take place sometime during the summer months and will be longer than three days, attendees will also be able to visit Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, as Updike did.

As everyone wished each other safe trips home, the refrain seemed to be, “See you in Boston in two years.” Pictured is the registration table at Alvernia, a group socializing at the hotel (Elizabeth Cobblah, Don Greiner, Patti and Jack De Bellis, Jim Schiff, Biljana Dojcinovic-Nesic, and Dave Silcox), and the classmates panel. For more photos, check out the Society’s Facebook page. And for those who can’t wait for 2012, look for an announcement soon regarding the American Literature Association Conference which, in 2011, will be held in Boston. The Society sponsors two panels, and member Richard Androne has agreed to coordinate those panels.