September 2013

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Screen Shot 2013-09-29 at 10.18.57 PMJohn Updike is among the writers profiled in A Journey Through Literary Americaa coffee-table book that is being sold to benefit the establishment of an American Writers Museum in Chicago. Here’s the release:

The authors of A Journey Through Literary America are embarking on a fundraising campaign to benefit the establishment of the American Writers Museum. Anticipated to open in Chicago, 2015, it will be the first national museum in the United States dedicated to the history of American literature and the American writer. Purchase the book, greeting cards or fine art prints directly from the website and 50% of the proceeds will be donated to help establish the American Writers Museum. Better yet, become a Chapter One Patron when you donate $100 directly to the American Writers Museum and receive the book as a complimentary gift.

Join the movement to establish the first national writers museum in the United States.

There are more than 17,500 museums in the United States. Among these are museums that focus on art, history, sports, pop culture, science, technology, race and ethnicity. Although there are many wonderful small museums that commemorate the lives of individual writers, almost unbelievably, there is not a single museum dedicated to the history of American literature and to American writers.

About A Journey Through Literary America
This 304-page coffee table book takes a look at 26 of America’s great authors and the places that inspired them. Unique to this book of literary biography is the element of the photograph. With over 140 photographs throughout, the images add mood and dimension to the writing and they are often shockingly close to what the featured authors described in their own words. Lushly illustrated and beautifully designed, the book is as much of a pleasure to look at as it is to read. It earned a prestigious Eric Hoffer Award as the Best Art Book of 2010 and notable reviews.

The book’s featured authors extol a range of voices: Sherwood Anderson • Raymond Carver • Willa Cather • James Fenimore Cooper • Rita Dove • Ralph Waldo Emerson • William Faulkner • Richard Ford • Robert Frost • Nathaniel Hawthorne • Ernest Hemingway • Langston Hughes • Washington Irving • Robinson Jeffers • Sinclair Lewis • Herman Melville • Henry Miller • Toni Morrison • Flannery O Connor • E. Annie Proulx • Philip Roth • Wallace Stegner • John Steinbeck • Henry David Thoreau • John Updike • Thomas Wolfe

The Literary America Collection of fine art prints have been exhibited at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, CA (2010) and at the Faulkner Gallery in Santa Barbara, CA (2012).

He wasn’t included in a list of Top 25 Contemporary Writers of Faith, because the editors of Patheos—”Hosting the Conversation on Faith”—only included living writers. But death apparently is a technicality readers would rather not concern themselves with.

The editors amended their original list based on suggestions of what people of faith are reading NOW, which apparently is contemporary enough. Updike made the list for In the Beauty of the Lilies, Roger’s Version, and My Father’s Tears—though, of course, his entire oeuvre might have been included.

Here’s the link.

Picture 1Albright College, where curator Maria Mogford teaches, ran a profile of her and the house restoration-in-progress. Here’s the link.

The Independent [London] for September 13, 2013 featured a piece by writer Justin Cartwright, who picked Rabbit at Rest for his “Book of a Lifetime.”

Rabbit at Rest is a wonderful book, honest, detailed, perceptive and moving,” he writes. “Although quietly charming and without any symptoms of Bohemia, Updike was ruthlessly forensic with his characters. His description of Rabbit’s wayward son, Nelson, is devastating: in contrast to the free pass to life that Rabbit grants himself—he is, in his reckoning, tall, athletic, open and attractive, with a full head of hair—his son is small, balding and furtive with a drug habit and—worse—a trite kind of philophy, confidently uttered. How accurately Updike captures the new banality.”

Here’s the full story.

The John Updike Childhood Home at 117 Philadelphia Ave., Shillington, Pa., is getting a badly needed exterior paint job. The exterior had been neglected for many years prior to the Society’s purchase of the home, and compared to other buildings in the neighborhood it was looking quite shabby—with lead paint peeling off in big chunks, right down to the brick.

Although the scraping, preparation, and painting is costly and the Society is still in need of donations, the board voted to move forward based on a substantial gift from the Robert and Adele Schiff Family Foundation and a commitment from the PECO Foundation.

The work is being done by a Shillington company:  Bilger Construction, affiliated with PuroClean Emergency Restoration Service, also of Shillington. The house will be repainted white, as it appeared for the bulk of the time that the Updikes lived there.




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The poem for September 10, 2013 is “Thunderstorm in Dorset, Vermont,” by John Updike, from his last collection, Endpoint. Download or listen to it here.

Some people think Jonathan Franzen is a literary giant; others think he’s just another talent with gigantic arrogance—the kind that enables him to turn down Oprah when every other writer in the country would do headstands for the chance to get that kind of audience.

What you think of him will probably affect what you think of the surprisingly nasty anti-Updike rant he went on in one of the “footnote excerpts” from Franzen’s translation of Austrian writer Karl Kraus that was posted September 6, 2013 on the Paris Review Daily.

What set him off was “Updike’s famous comparison of a writer’s work to excretion: you take in life, digest it, and shit it out in paragraphs,” and that leads him to a remarkably long and vitriolic rant which feels in part like a confession and part shotgun blast that also manages to shower a few buckshot pellets in Philip Roth’s direction.

It all sounds terribly Freudian, doesn’t it? Kill the [literary] father(s), and all that . . . . Some may smile that he also may have confirmed the excrement analogy with an example of his own.