July 2013

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GilbertIn his review of David Gilbert’s novel & Sons for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Mark Athitakis called it “a big, fat novel that’s a commentary on big, fat novels.

“It has a great man at its center: A.N. Dyer, an aging author whose style mashes up John Updike, Philip Roth and John Irving,” Athitakis wrote.

“The novel also celebrates the power of words—Gilbert invents swaths of Dyer’s prose, which is stylistically distinct from his own. But Gilbert also exposes the shallowness of those words,” he adds, and “it often feels like a postmodern novel in realist drag.”

Coincidentally, Gilbert’s first novel, The Normals: A Novel (2004), focused on a Harvard-educated protagonist. Photo: David Gilbert.

Screen Shot 2013-07-21 at 7.18.23 AMAccording to an NPR series on “Poverty in America: The Struggle to Get Ahead,” Reading, Pa. edged out Flint, Mich. as the nation’s poorest city.

Updike was born in the Reading hospital and wrote about the city in his Rabbit tetralogy, calling it Brewer.

The Society returns to Reading in October 2014 for the Third Biennial John Updike Society Conference at Alvernia University.

Here’s the link to the full article. Thanks to member Brian Duffy for calling it to our attention.

thumb“Enormous Updike fan” Sally Field, the Oscar-winning actress, headlines a group of readers announced for an event intended to coincide with publication of John Updike: The Collected Stories.

“The Stories of John Updike” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. on October 16, 2013 at the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre, Symphony Space. Tony Kushner and others will introduce or read their favorite Updike stories. Phone 212-864-5400 for details.

It’s a part of Selected Shorts, a weekly public radio show broadcast on over 130 stations to about 300,000 listeners. It is produced by Symphony Space and WNYC Radio and distributed by Public Radio International. The show is recorded live at the popular New York City stage show, which began in 1985 and still enjoys sell-out audiences. The Selected Shorts podcast also ranks as one of the most popular podcasts on iTunes.

1598532502If you’re in the middle of research or just can’t wait to see a copy of John Updike, The Collected Stories, you no longer have to wait until September 12—the date the book will appear in retail stores and be shipped by Amazon.

The boxed set and individual volumes (John Updike, Collected Early Stories and John Updike, Collected Later Stories) are now available exclusively and at a considerable discount through the Library of America’s own secure Web store. And the shipping is free within the U.S.

The two-volume set is $60 (20 percent off the list price of $75), while the individual volumes are $31.50 each (15 percent off the list price of $37.50).

Here are the links:

John Updike, The Collected Stories (Box Set)

John Updike, Collected Early Stories

John Updike, Collected Later Stories

ThatsnotfunnycoverThe National Lampoon, which was published from 1970-1998, was a spinoff of the Harvard Lampoon, the irreverent humor publication based at Lampoon Castle in Cambridge, which John Updike Society members saw during the Second Biennial Conference in Boston.

Tours of the building where Updike once served as Lampoon president were not possible because of the organization’s commitment to secrecy. But a description of the interior appears in That’s Not Funny, That’s Sick: The National Lampoon and the Comedy Insurgents Who Captured the Mainstream—a recently published history:

“Much as the HL’s frivolity departs from Harvard’s overall serious-mindedness, so its home resembles an elaborate and charming joke, an unusually whimsical exception to the order and harmony of the university’s architectural vernacular. Although called the Castle, the building is only three stories. However, it does have a tower with a pointed roof, atop which perches the Ibis, the organization’s frequently stolen mascot. Vaguely medieval detailing such as emblazoned wooden doors and leaded glass windows add a certain baronial flair. Upstairs is the Great Hall, a big room that looks like a Hollywood version of something called “The Great Hall” down to its vaulted ceiling and magnificent sixteenth-century Elizabethan fireplace, suitable for smashing plates and glassware against (the building comes complete with a maintenance staff to clean it up). The walls along a winding staircase are covered with framed covers of HL projects dating back to the founding of the organization/publication by seven undergraduates in 1876.”

Chapter 1, “Lampy’s Castle,” also discusses some of the “quaint traditions” of the Lampoon. That’s Not Funny is available through Amazon.

Related story: “Editor’s Choice: ‘That’s Not Funny, That’s Sick'”


Screen Shot 2013-07-16 at 3.31.46 PMWe’re still considering bids for the exterior repairs and painting, and Habitat volunteers have only just begun tearing out non-period carpeting and such, but already The John Updike Childhood Home is on people’s radar.

On the Flavorwire website Jason Diamond posted a fun story with photos, “50 Places Every Literary Fan Should Visit,” which included the Updike house. It should inspire quite a few pilgrimages, both to Shillington and elsewhere. There’s lots of information here, too. I for one did not realize that Tennessee Williams lived in the campus windmill at SUNY-Stony Brook Southampton campus.

Pictured is The Algonquin Hotel, which Updike visited on a number of occasions, as evidenced by the previous post.

UpdikebillPaul Moran writes,

The Other John Updike Archive is a collection of objects that formerly belonged to John Updike.

“Each posting will contain another piece from the collection.

“This is part of the Kula Art Project, which consists of a return to the importance of relics and the biography of ordinary things.”

Some of the things are actually quite extraordinary, such as a royalty statement from Knopf showing domestic and foreign sales for Rabbit, Run. Or a hotel bill detailing what room the Updikes stayed in.

begleyAmazon recently began accepting pre-orders for Adam Begley’s much-awaited unauthorized biography of John Updike.

Begley is traveling abroad and couldn’t provide details, but he confirmed via email that the title of the book is simply Updike and that the publication date is as listed: April 8, 2014.

No cover art is provided, but the hardcover dimensions are 9x6x1.2″ and the book is listed at 400 pages, with a SRP of $29.99. Currently Amazon is selling it for $23.58 (21 percent off). Here’s the link.

Citi FieldThe Writer’s Almanac for Tuesday, June 25, 2013, featured Updike’s poem “Baseball,” which seems even more appropriate to share as Tuesday’s All-Star Game  draws nearer.

In fact, it’s tempting to contact starting NL first basemen Joey Votto to ask him how accurate Updike’s second-stanza simile seems—if he was ever “scared / of the shortstop’s wild throw / that stretches you out like a gutted deer.”

“Baseball” appeared in Endpoint, confirming Updike’s sustained interest in the Great American Pastime throughout his life.

UpdikestoriescoverAs much as Adam Begley’s forthcoming biography, Updike enthusiasts have been anticipating the September 12 publication of John Updike: The Collected Stories by the Library of America. The two volumes can be bought singly (John Updike: Collected Early Stories, John Updike: Collected Later Stories) or in a set that includes a sturdy and colorful slipcase designed by Chip Kidd, featuring the 1982 oil-on-canvas portrait by Alex Katz that’s housed at the National Portrait Gallery.

I received an advance copy of the set and am happy to report that it’s extremely well done. Christopher Carduff, who put together the special book publication of Hub Fan Bids Kid Adieu and edited Higher Gossip: Essays and Criticism (2011) and Always Looking: Essays on Art (2012), has arranged the stories in the order of their composition—a task made easier, Carduff writes, because “Updike signed a first-reading agreement” with The New Yorker when he was 22 years old and “habitually marked the date of submission on the first page of the typescript copy he kept for his files.” Almost all these typescripts from Updike’s personal files are now in the collection of Harvard’s Houghton Library.   Read the rest of this entry »

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