January 2014

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Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 8.05.45 PMScott Dill, who put out the call for papers and assembled the panels for the Society’s annual participation at the American Literature Association Conference, has announced that the panels are set:

Updike and the Short Story: Vol. 1
Chair: Matthew Shipe, Washington University

  • “Making the Images Move: A Certain Continuity in John Updike’s Short Fiction,” Kanqin Li, University of Leicester
  • “Updike in His Times: History and Autobiography in the Fiction,” Kathleen Verduin, Hope College
  • “The John Updike Childhood Home and His Short Fiction,” Maria Mogford, Albright College

Updike and the Short Story: Vol. 2
Chair: Scott Dill, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  • “Mind Games Forever: Masculine Self-Delusion in ‘The Morning’ and ‘Slippage,'” Peter Bailey, St. Lawrence University
  • “Updike on Religion after 9/11,” Liliana Naydan, University of Michigan
  • Life after Sex?: Memory and the Diminished Present in John Updike’s Late Short Fiction,” Matthew Shipe, Washington University

The idea for the panels was inspired by the recent publication of the Library of America two-volume set of John Updike’s short stories. Thanks to Scott and congratulations to all who had papers accepted.

Times have not been set yet, but the 25th Annual ALA Conference will be held at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill from May 22 through May 25. You must register and pay the conference fee to attend.

Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 11.06.12 PMFormer Granta editor John Freeman interviewed a lot of major writers over the course of 13 years—a number that proved lucky for him, as those encounters inspired a book, How to Read a Novelist (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 334 pages). Included is “U and Me: The Hard Lessons of Idolizing John Updike.”

“He’s a great reader, of novels and novelists (hence this collection’s title),” Chris Vognar of the Dallas Morning News writes. “True to his mission, however, Freeman is quick to get out of the way when the writers have something to say.”

“The only thing an interviewer can do to capture what a novelist does,” [Freeman] writes, “is to make them talk and tell stories, and think aloud. These are not meant to be definitive life profiles but rather glimpses spied through a moving window.”

Book review: ‘How to Read a Novelist,’ by John Freeman

Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 10.48.59 PMBrain Pickings, a self-described “cross-disciplinary LEGO treasure chest, full of pieces spanning art, design, science, technology, philosophy, history, politics, psychology, sociology, ecology, anthropology, and more,” published a piece that features clips of Updike talking about his writing habits and offering advice to young writers.

“Try to develop actual work habits,” Updike says, “and, even though you have a busy life, try to reserve an hour, say, or more a day to write. Very good things have been written on an hour a day . . . . So take it seriously, set a quota, try to think of communicating with some ideal reader somewhere . . . .

“Don’t try to get rich . . . . If you want to get rich, you should go into investment banking or be a certain kind of lawyer. On the other hand, I like to think that in a country this large and a language even larger, that there ought to be a living for somebody who cares and wants to entertain and instruct a reader.”

For the full article, click on “John Updike on Making Money, How to Have a Productive Daily Routine, and the Most Important Things for Aspiring Writers to Know.” 

Screen Shot 2014-01-23 at 7.20.15 PMUpdike fans know that his stint on the Harvard Lampoon was career-shaping, and that he was one of many distinguished and successful creative minds to serve as its president.

Next year, a woman takes the satiric helm for the first time.

Updike only gets a mention, but here’s The Boston Globe story by Joseph P. Kahn, “Leaders’ rise at Harvard Lampoon marks a serious milestone.”

updikecaricatureAuthor Nick Mattiske writes that he has published a book of reviews in Australia, and in the introduction he draws inspiration from John Updike to “make a few rambling points about reviewing. The introduction also includes a caricature of Updike,” he says, and he “reproduced part of this introduction and the caricature as the first post on my blog,” which can be found here:

“On Ronald Blythe’s almost-most-recent book”

Before he gets into his own book, Mr. Mattiske evaluates another: “As John Updike has noted,” he begins, “Blythe’s work has a particularity about it regarding place that sometimes requires from the reader a measure of understanding of local village and parish life with which Blythe is saturated.”

When he gets to his own volume he cites an Updike quotation: “The communication between reviewer and his public is based upon the presumption of certain possible joys of reading, and all our discrimination should curve toward that end.”

Mattiske concludes, “The best reviews open doors to rooms never previously noticed that enrich the reader’s or listener’s experience. There is sometimes a great need for negativity, if that means the critique of sloppy thinking rather than merely the reviewer’s personal distaste, but Updike is right: when one has the pleasure of being immersed in books and music, some measure of enthusiasm should spark off onto the reader.”

Matthew Kirschenbaum, who will give the annual lecture at the Bibliographical Society of America this Friday, January 24 in New York City, says that his lecture draws heavily on his research of the Updike papers at the Houghton Library. The lecture is free and open to the public.

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calliope-master180The New York Times posted an article yesterday in which William Grimes recalls a series of 1963 LPs (that’s “long-playing records,” for the digital generation) from Calliope Records featuring authors reading from their own work. Included was John Updike, who reads his short story, “Lifeguard.”

Now, Grimes reports, the series is being reissued on two CDs and downloadable audio files as “Calliope Author Readings.” According to Amazon.com, Updike is included in “Great American Authors Read from Their Works, Vol. 2,” along with Bernard Malamud, James Jones, and Nelson Algren—the latter reading excerpts from “The Man with the Golden Arm.”

The Times article, “Hearing Genuine Voices of Midcentury Fiction” is more than a new-product notice. Grimes covers the full story behind the initial recordings and weighs in on the impact of hearing authors read their own works.

With so many of the authors now dead, Grimes says, “The readings arrive like errant postcards delivered decades after the fact. The effect can be eerie. Updike, tiptoeing his way through the intricate syntax of ‘Lifeguard’ from his short story collection Pigeon Feathers, sounds impossibly youthful and fey. It takes an effort to recall that the owner of the voice died in 2009.”

cupdikeYesterday The Paris Review Daily published “A Resident of Sipswich, MA,” the final installment in a series of Timothy Leo Taranto illustrated author puns.

The drawing speaks for itself. Other authors targeted: Ralph Ellison, Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Screen Shot 2014-01-18 at 7.15.33 AMUpdike aficionados know Chip Kidd as the principal designer of Updike’s books published at Knopf, but the fellow Reading, Pa. native also wrote books of his own and designed covers for numerous other authors, including the now-iconic dust jacket for Jurassic Park.

This past week Penn State’s University Libraries announced that they have acquired the Chip Kidd archives—enough material to fill 250 boxes and 1 terabyte of digital data. According to a story posted on the university website, “University Libraries acquire design ‘rock star,’ alumnus Chip Kidd’s archives,” the librarians plan to exhibit the Kidd archive next January, “with a goal of having the collection processed and open to researchers by then as well. Tim Pyatt is the contact person: tdp11@psu.edu, 1-814-865-1793.

Screen Shot 2014-01-17 at 8.33.17 PMMartin Chilton, Culture Editor for The Telegraph online, today posted an article titled “Benny Goodman 1938 concert revived,” which begins,

“Benny Goodman’s 1938 concert at Carnegie Hall is one of the most famous in the history of jazz, lauded by author (and jazz fan) John Updike as “a marvelous and magical moment in music history.

“Updike heard it as a teenager, when it was first released on record in 1950 (it was the first double album and sold more than a million copies). . . .

“As Updike told Desert Island Discs, when he chose it as one of his record selections in 1995: ‘It’s such an intricate concert and Sing Sing Sing, which is the longest selection of it all, has the riff that the pianist Jess Stacy takes after hearing a number of trumpet and clarinet riffs. The story I later read was that he was listening to Claude Debussy before the concert and when his chance came to shine, the Debussy filtered into this jazz tune. It’s a really marvelous and magical passage, a great minute or two in the history of jazz.”

Updike may have created an Everyman in Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, but it’s a testament to his own status as a Renaissance man that his remarks on jazz are as valued as what he had to say about art, literature, or other aspects of culture.

Listen to the 1995 Desert Island Discs podcast featuring an interview with John Updike.

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