October 2014

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Yesterday, October 29, 2014, Garrison Keillor featured another Updike poem on The Writer’s Almanac:  “Island Cities.”

Here’s the link.

Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 9.36.38 PMThe Millions published an essay titled “When Updike Met Barth,” by Nathan Scott McNamara, who teaches at Johns Hopkins University and serves as the Denis Family Curatorial Fellow for Special Collections Resource Center there. In the article, he includes Updike’s typed response. At the time, Updike was 34, and Barth was 36, but Updike was not inclined toward public speaking. But he accepted Barth’s invitation to come to Baltimore to do a reading.

“On Friday, April 18th, 1975, Updike arrived in Baltimore with, in his words to Barth, “A Martha Bernhard.” After he gave his talk, “The next morning, Barth and Shelley and Updike and Martha went on a literary tour of Baltimore. They visited Edgar Allan Poe’s grave. They went to the H.L. Mencken House. They got soft-shell crab for lunch. Then John and Martha got on a plane back to Massachusetts.”

“After Updike died, Martha, who married Updike in 1977, told Barth in a letter that this first trip was not only the beginning of her relationship with Updike, but also the occasion on which Updike changed his mind about readings. ‘He took to it,’ Martha wrote, ‘as he didn’t to teaching, and thus began a modest, but consistent reading schedule that he truly enjoyed.”

Reacting to this article, Baynard Woods contributed an item to the Wandering Eye page of Citypaper.com in which he details a 1967 trip to Baltimore that Updike made at the invitation of then-Hopkins’ prof John Barth.

The columnist writes, “Of course we’re always looking for literary bits about Baltimore, but the fascinating part of the Millions account is the long friendship that this trip inspired between two authors who, though as different as possible in style, immensely admired one another.”

Esquire just got into the bucket reading list game with the recently uploaded feature on “The 80 Books Every Man Should Read.” 

And of course Rabbit, Run made the list . . . “Because it’s one of the few not about Updike. It’s about that guy you idolized in high school. And kitchen gadgets. And you.”

The Telegraph in September (how did we miss that?) posted “100 novels everyone should read; the best novels of all time from Tolkien to Proust and Middlemarch,” and Updike made the list:

43 The Rabbit books by John Updike
A former high school basketball star is unsatisfied by marriage, fatherhood and sales jobs.

Updike contemporary Ian McEwan made the list (#30, Atonement), as did Muriel Spark (#48, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie), Toni Morrison (#50, Beloved), Don DeLillo (#51, Underworld), JD Salinger (#52, The Catcher in the Rye), Margaret Atwood (#53, The Handmaid’s Tale), Vladimir Nabokov (#54, Lolita), Gabriel Garcia Marquez (#60, One Hundred Years of Solitude), Joseph Heller (#77, Catch-22), and Jack Kerouac (#87, On the Road). It’s very much a classics list, with George Eliot’s Middlemarch coming in at #1, followed by Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Henry James’ The Portrait of a Lady, and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

For a while, it took a subscription to view the Reading Eagle story about Adam Begley‘s keynote John Updike Society conference talk, but now you can view a version of it for free at Berks & Beyond.

In the article by Bruce Posten, Begley said “he happened to write Updike’s obituary in 2009 for the New York Observer, where he was books editor. Apparently because of that, he was subsequently tapped by HarperCollins to write the biography.”

“‘My primary regret is it took Updike’s death to make it happen,’ he said, noting that Updike had expressed that he never wanted a biography during his lifetime.'”

Here’s the full story and a photo by Reading Eagle photographer Bill Uhrich of Begley with conference co-directors Maria Mogford (left) and Sue Guay (right).

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GalaxyRecently Galaxy: International Multidisciplinary Research Journal, edited by Dr. Vishwanath Bite, published an essay on Updike that’s also online:

“A View of 1990s American Society through Updike’s Rabbit Remembered,” by Dr. Kavitha Mohan (Angel College of Engineering and Technology, Tirupur, Tamilnadu, India) and B.S. Gomathi (Erode Sengunthar Engineering College, Thudupathi, Perundurai, Erode, Tamilnadu, India).

ABSTRACT:  John Hoyer Updike is considered as one of the greatest American fiction writers of his generation. He was a great poet, short story writer, essayist, novelist, art critic and a literary critic. To brief, he was a man of letters. Updike also was well recognized for his careful craftsmanship, unique prose style, and prolific output.

Updike’s Rabbit series which comprises of the novels Rabbit Run, Rabbit Redux, Rabbit Is Rich, Rabbit at Rest and the novella Rabbit Remembered is regarded as his supreme achievement by the critics. Rabbit Remembered draws a final close to the Rabbit saga. The novels Rabbit is Rich and Rabbit at Rest won Pulitzer prize for fiction. Updike is one of only three authors to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction more than once. The protagonist of the series is an American small town, protestant, middle-class man, Harry Angstrom who is nicknamed as Rabbit. As Updike mirrored America in all his works, he was also considered as a great social critic. This paper aims at viewing nineteen nineties American society through the novella Rabbit Remembered.

Here’s the full essay.

The Other John Updike Archive recently shared a torn and taped photo of Updike sitting in a boat, from the cover shoot for Hugging the Shore. But of great curiosity: Paul Moran has posted a photo of the shorts that Updike was wearing, along with the “cheap watch.” And he speculates why Updike would have held on to those particular items for so long, only to finally throw them out.

Here’s the link.

In a blog post [“Literary Lampoons: The Cartoonist Ambitions of a Great American Writer”] written by Bryant Scott highlighting holdings in East Carolina University’s Stuart Wright Collection, five John Updike cartoons are showcased. The best? His pre-debate assessment of “young” Dick Nixon and Jack Kennedy.

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Jorge Salgado Simoes writes with news from Camara Municipal de Torres Novas, Portugal:

FICTIONAL GEOGRAPHIES – BREWER AND THE JOHN UPDIKE TERRITORIES

Last October 4th, Torres Novas Municipal Library, in Portugal, developed a workshop on John Updike’s works, particularly on his Rabbit series and the fictional city of Brewer, included in the program of a wide seminar called “We, at the Libraries” (Nós, nas Bibliotecas) and focused on links and connections between public libraries, schools and other institutions.

The session “Fictional Geographies – Brewer and the John Updike territories” was developed by Jorge Salgado Simões, geographer and Director of Education and Cultural Affairs Department of Torres Novas Municipality, and participants were teachers and librarians, 12 people in total that got to know different topics on John Updike’s life and works and discussed Brewer’s urban dynamics, compared to global city changes during the last half of the twentieth century.

While listening to a playlist of music themes referred to by Harry Angstrom, participants were also invited to draw a possible map or representation from a passage of Rabbit Is Rich, concluding about the freedom we can find in fictional places and the different readings that they offer us.

Below is a photo of the group, and a representative drawing.

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On her blog, The Thinking Housewife, Laura Wood published an entry titled “E. Michael Jones on John Updike” that considers Updike in the context of what Christopher Lasch called “the Culture of Narcissism.”

Given the recent essay on the Christian roommates in The John Updike Review, what she and her responders have to say might be of interest.

“According to Jones, ‘Literature used to be a WASP avocation. It is now a Jewish business, and John Updike, because of his narcissism and his moral defections, enabled the transition from the former to the latter state.'”

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