December 2012

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Who says authors don’t read reviews and notices of their work? Salman Rushdie responded to a December 15 letter to The Guardian books section which attacked him and caught John Updike in the crossfire by firing off one of his own the next day.

“Satanic view that equates democracies and dictatorships” notes that the letter-writer “misreads John Updike’s ‘blue mailboxes’ speech at the Pen congress of 1986. Updike was not talking selfishly about sending away his writing and receiving cheques in return. He was using the mailboxes as a metaphor of the easy, free exchange of ideas and information in an open society.”

Rushdie also goes on to talk about how the letter-writer misrepresents him as well. Here’s the link to Rushdie’s letter, which has a link to the original. Thanks to member Larry Randen for calling it to our attention.

LibraryThing, an online service that helps people catalog their books, ran a thread begun on December 14 that noted the Library of America 2013 calendar lists John Updike as one of the authors that will be published next year. Later in the thread David Cloyce Smith, who works at Library of America, confirmed that LOA will publish John Updike’s collected stories in two volumes that will be published together.

According to Smith, the stories will be arranged chronologically by the dates Updike sent the final manuscripts off to The New Yorker. Alas, the set will not include the Maples stories or Bech books, the latter of which Smith said LOA hopes to publish in the near future.

Smith said that the two-volume LOA edition will include “more than a dozen stories that were not collected in Updike’s story collections. Two of them have never before appeared in a trade book edition; the others have appeared in Updike’s prose miscellanies (Assorted Prose, the posthumous Higher Gossip, etc.).”

That’s good news for Updike scholars. LOA published the collected stories of Raymond Carver in a definitive edition that took into account the author’s intent when more than one version appeared in print. Updike, as most of his readers know, was a compulsive reviser who made changes nearly every time he revisited a story or novel. It would be nice to have a definitive LOA collection.

Here’s the link to the LibraryThing thread.

Member Larry Randen reports that you can buy prints of Scott Laumann’s portrait of John Updike that was commissioned by Reader’s Digest. Click on the link below to see a PDF of the full portrait and a website url for placing orders.

JohnUpdikePortraitScottLaumann.

A number of Society members have asked about the status of Adam Begley’s biography of John Updike, so we asked Begley, who reports that as of today he’s written about 140,000 words and has roughly 25,000 to go.

“My deadline, according to the contract with HarperCollins, is the end of May 2013,” Begley writes. “If the Houghton opens the Updike archive as promised in early January, I should be finished on time.”

If that happens, Begley speculates that there’s a good chance the book will be published in early 2014.

Anyone with information or leads can send their suggestions directly to Begley  (acbegley@gmail.com). Although the biography is not authorized by the Updike Estate, there is still considerable interest.