September 2015

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Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 5.00.49 PMJohn Updike’s previously unpublished early poem “Coming into New York” appears on page 38 of the October 5 issue of The New Yorker, on sale at newsstands today.

The poem is also available online, here: “Coming into New York.” Both a printed version of the poem appears, as well as a recording of Brad Leithauser reading Updike’s poem.

Leithauser provided the introduction to John Updike: Selected Poems (Knopf), edited by Christopher Carduff. That volume hits bookstores on October 13, 2015 (Amazon link).

Brad Leithauser reading “Coming into New York.”

changesevenEver since Nicholson Baker lionized John Updike in an admirer’s confession titled U and I: A True Story, the anecdotes from Updike readers and fans have kept coming. The latest to surface is a reminiscence about one particular American Booksellers Association Convention, three speakers (Geraldine Ferraro, Richard Ford, John Updike), and one joke . . . with Updike as the punch line.

Here is Corey Mesler‘s mini-essay, “The Updike Joke and After,” which was published today on the Change Seven Magazine website.

KeillorHere’s some news that ought to make John Updike Society members and Updike fans smile and start Googling cheap flights to Columbia, South Carolina.

Garrison Keillor, best known as the longtime host of the NPR radio program A Prairie Home Companion, will be the keynote speaker for the Fourth Biennial John Updike Society Conference, hosted by the University of South Carolina and the University of South Carolina Libraries. Keillor will kick off the conference with an 8 p.m. keynote address on Wednesday, October 12, 2016.

Keillor is one of Updike’s biggest fans and has often featured poems by Updike on The Writer’s Almanac, a daily program he hosts. A literary star himself, he has also written a string of books that started back in 1985 with Lake Wobegon Days.

Keillor was born in 1942 in Anoka, Minnesota, and began his radio career as a freshman at the University of Minnesota, from which he graduated in 1966. He went to work for Minnesota Public Radio in 1969, and on July 6, 1974, he hosted the first broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion in St. Paul. Today, some 4 million listeners on more than 600 public radio stations coast to coast and beyond tune in to the show each week.

KeillorReaderKeillor has been honored with Grammy, ACE, and George Foster Peabody awards, the National Humanities Medal, and election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters—the latter two honors something he has in common with Updike. His many books of humor and fiction include Lake Wobegon Days, The Book of Guys, Guy Noir and the Straight Skinny, and his latest, The Keillor Reader: Looking Back at Forty Years of Stories: Where Did They All Come From? (Viking, 2015). Keillor has also edited several anthologies of poetry, most recently, Good Poems: American Places (Viking, 2011).

In 2006, Keillor played himself in the movie adaptation of his show, a film directed by Robert Altman. He has two grandsons and in 2007 he opened an independent bookstore, Common Good Books, in St. Paul, the city where he and his wife and daughter make their home.

As at previous conferences, there will be books available for purchase at the event. More program and registration details will be forthcoming. Although membership is required to attend the conference, the society welcomes ALL fans of Updike and the dues ($30/year, $25/retirees, grad students) are affordable.

The John Updike Society is dedicated to awakening and sustaining reader interest in the literature and life of John Updike, promoting literature written by Updike, fostering and encouraging critical responses to Updike’s literary works, and, through The John Updike Childhood Home, preserving the history and telling the story of John Updike’s relationship with Shillington, Pa. and the influence that Berks County had on his literary works.

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Esquire keeps cranking out the lists, and Updike keeps making them.

This time it’s “49 Great Lines from Classic Esquire Short Stories”—though how “great” some of the lines are is highly debatable.

Updike’s line, at least, holds its own:

“There wasn’t that tireless, irksome, bright-eyed hope women kept fluttering at you.” —John Updike, “The Rumor,” June 1991

Here’s a link to the complete short story.

John Updike by Tom BachtellThe New Yorker & Me blog featured a post on September 11, 2015 titled “In Praise of John Updike’s Criticism (Contra James Wood).” The blogger takes exception with Woods’ assessment of Updike’s criticism, which surfaces in a Slate interview (18 August 2015) with Isaac Chotiner.

Chotiner complains, “I felt like he was always just sort of going through the motions of telling me what the book was about,” and Wood piles on:

“The maddening equilibrium of [Updike’s] critical voice—never getting too upset or too excited—enacted, I always felt, a kind of strategy of containment, whereby everything would be diplomatically sorted through, and somehow equalized and neutralized, and put on the same shelf—and always one rung below Updike himself.”

This blogger responds, “Well, there’s no accounting for taste. The great literary critic of my life is Updike. His reviews are like no others; they show how criticism can be a breathtaking art in itself.”

As “an offset against Wood’s sour remarks” the blogger quotes a passage from an Orhan Pamuk review of Adam Begley’s recent biography and also cites a dozen favorite and memorable passages from Updike’s criticism to prove that Updike’s reviews, like his fiction and poetry, was full of insights, as well as his omnipresent appreciation for language itself. Photo credit: Tom Bachtell.

It’s tough keeping up with Updike’s talented offspring, but here’s the latest on artists Michael and Miranda Updike:

This month you can see Michael Updike‘s new work at four venues:

September 10—Cape Ann Farmer’s Market, 3-6:30pm, Stage Fort Park, Gloucester, MA
September 12-13—Laudholm Nature Crafts Fair, 10am-4pm, Wells, ME
September 19-20—Jamaica Plains Open Studio, 11am-6pm, Courtyard at the Brewery, 284 Amory St.
September 26-27—Hamilton House Fine Arts and Crafts, 10am-4pm, Vaughan’s Lane, South Berwick, ME


Miranda Updike is one of “7 North Shore Artists” showcased at The Cedar Tree Gallery at Walker Creek Furniture, 57 Eastern Ave., Essex, MA The show runs from September 12 through October 26, with an opening reception at 5-8pm on September 12. The gallery is open Sundays 1-5pm and Tuesday through Saturday 10am-5pm.