July 2012

You are currently browsing the monthly archive for July 2012.

Matthew Spencer of The Guardian has decided to use reader feedback to determine not the Great American novel, but the Great American novelist in a 32-bracket “tournament.”

Spencer seeded Updike fourth, and in his first “match” Updike goes up against Ursula K. Le Guin. Readers have to register with The Guardian to be able to post feedback which will influence the outcome.

To qualify for the tournament, writers had to produce four novels that are four possible “greats.” Spencer chose the Rabbit tetralogy for Updike’s four entries. Personally, I would have left Rabbit Redux off the list and substituted The Centaur. And for Hemingway, who was seeded eighth, I would have swapped To Have and Have Not and The Garden of Eden for The Old Man and the Sea and For Whom the Bell Tolls. So there are some curious choices here, and some equally curious rankings. For the Top 10 seeds, William Faulkner comes in at Number 1, followed by Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, Updike, John Steinbeck, Sinclair Lewis, Toni Morrison, Ernest Hemingway, Edith Wharton, and Cormac McCarthy. It’s worth noting that Spencer seeded Updike behind two Nobel laureates, but ahead of four others.

Here’s the article, with thanks to member Andrew Moorhouse for drawing it to our attention.

The current issue (July 12-August 15) of The New York Review of Books is devoted to fiction, and one article prominently features Updike, member Brian Duffy writes:

It is “American Male Novelists: The New Deal,” by Elaine Blair. Its starting point is David Foster Wallace’s labeling of Updike, Mailer and Roth as the “Great Male Narcissists,” and his claim that these novelists are much less appreciated by readers of later generations (especially by younger women readers). It then goes on to consider how contemporary male novelists are conscious of this legacy and how they seek to appeal to female readers by rejecting the attitudes and sexual “politics” of the “GMN.”
Here is the link to the first page of the article. You’ll need to subscribe to The New York Review of Books to get the full article, or else pick up a hard copy.

At the recent 2nd Biennial John Updike Society Conference in Boston, members toured Ipswich and got to see the stately elm that Updike wrote about—one of the oldest trees in Ipswich that stood directly across from the Polly Dole House at 26 East St., where Updike lived in the ’60s with his family.

Society members got to see that tree just in time. Today, The Salem News reported that the tree was taken down—but not without a proper ceremony which included David (pictured) and Michael Updike.

But it wasn’t only a case of good timing.  Michael Updike knew the tree had died and called city officials to see if they could wait until after the society toured Ipswich before cutting it down.

Thanks to member Bob Batchelor for calling it to our attention.

For those who missed it, Philip Roth Studies Vol. 7, No. 2 features the transcript of an ALA session in which Updike Society board member and treasurer Marshall Boswell participated: “Contemporary American Fiction and the Confluence of Don DeLillo, Cormac McCarthy, Toni Morrison, Philip Roth, and John Updike: A Roundtable Discussion.”

Marshall says that a “grainy photo” of the participants accompanies the roundtable transcript, and that he was proud to carry the Updike banner.

Here’s the transcript of the roundtable discussion, shared by permission of editor and current Updike Society board member Derek Parker Royal, who adds that members can buy a hard copy through  The Philip Roth Society Website. Derek’s email is on the Meet the Board page on the left menu, if you wish to order a copy directly through him.

Former Kansas City Star book review editor John Mark Eberhart interviewed John Updike on or around October 24, 2008 in conjunction with the publication of The Widows of Eastwick. An article based on the interview appeared in the Star, but not until January 4, 2009. That article was reprinted in Pop Matters on January 7, 2009. However, the full Q & A that was the basis for the article has never appeared anywhere. We print it here by permission of Mr. Eberhart, with gratitude.

JME: I was a little surprised you decided to revisit your witches from “The Witches of Eastwick.” But of course you’ve revisited Henry Beck and, most famously, Rabbit Angstrom. Anyway, why these characters, and why now?

JU: For lack of a better idea, basically. The first sequel to “Rabbit, Run” came about because I’d wasted a lot of time doing research on President James Buchanan and I owed the world, I came to feel, a novel. The best thing I could think of was, “I wonder how Harry Angstrom is doing now?” “Rabbit, Run” had been left up in the air. So there was an excuse there, and I discovered it’s fun to write a sequel. It gives you a grip on time as it possesses the characters. Also, there’s a certain layered richness that you rightly or wrongly imagine as you work on a sequel or even a sequel to a sequel!

I never meant to write a sequel to “The Witches of Eastwick,” but the book was more of a commercial success than my books usually are. It sold well enough, and they made a movie of it. The movie, although attractive in its cast and its scenery, basically distorted or ignored the book itself. The main events of the plot as I conceived it was that the witches managed to put enough of a spell on one of the men in the town that he beat his wife to death and committed suicide, creating two orphans, and one of these became a kind of assistant witch, and she also was eliminated by a spell. Anyway, none of that plot got (in the movie).” Read the rest of this entry »