February 2016

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Kevin SchehrKevin Schehr, a charter member of The John Updike Society, has arranged for his extensive Updike collection to be donated to the society. The collection, last appraised at $80,000, includes first editions of all of Updike’s books (many signed, including Franklin Library editions), uncorrected proof copies, broadsides, limited editions, books about Updike, books containing contributions by Updike, and over 1600 periodicals featuring first appearances of writings by Updike or about Updike.

“This is a huge gift to the society,” president James Plath said. “It ensures that visitors to The John Updike Childhood Home at any given time in the future will see a number of first editions, which we’ll rotate in order to minimize their exposure to light. The first appearances in magazines will be especially interesting for Updike fans, because few of us have seen them when they first appeared in print.”

Schehr is currently in his fourth elected term as the Associate Circuit Judge for Morgan County, Missouri. He handles all cases filed in Morgan County, including civil actions, dissolutions of marriage, probate, and all criminal misdemeanor cases, as well as all felonies until the preliminary hearing has been held. Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, he got his first exposure to Updike at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind., when part of his senior year comprehensive exam required him to “explicate the short story ‘A & P.’ I thought I had found the next J.D. Salinger from reading that story,” he said. Then, “When I went to graduate school as a teaching assistant at the University of Missouri I was assigned Updike’s Rabbit, Run in one of my classes for my Master’s Degree. Later, upon joining The Book of the Month Club I used three of my four free selections to obtain the Rabbit books (there were only three then). That led to wanting to get true first editions of the books and my collecting bug took off from there. It started around 1982 and lasted until Updike’s death in 2009.”

Schehr said he initially donated the collection to his alma mater, Wabash College, but when he inquired about it recently he discovered that the materials were not considered a priority. As a result, he asked the college if they would consider re-donating the collection to The John Updike Society, and they were willing. Plath will pick up the exhaustive collection and drive it to Shillington sometime in mid-May 2016.

“I did get to meet Updike once when he was a dinner guest and gave a reading at the University of Missouri,” Schehr said. “I had dinner a few tables away from him, but did not approach him at that time. Later, after the reading, he was signing autographs and I waited my turn. When I got my chance I handed him my first edition copy of his first book to sign. He gave it a puzzled look, as if he were surprised that anyone would have a copy, and then, after asking for my name inscribed it ‘to Kevin, this very old book, cheers, John Updike.’ I left with a big smile on my face.”

The John Updike Society is grateful to Judge Schehr for assembling the collection and to Wabash College for re-gifting it.


Levine-witchesVolume 4, Number 1 (Fall 2015) of The John Updike Review was recently published. The journal, edited by James Schiff and Nicola Mason and published by the University of Cincinnati and The John Updike Society, features a striking (and strikingly playful) David Levine drawing of Updike as one of his alter ego witches.

It’s an appropriate graphic, since Schiff’s innovative “Three Writers on . . .” section this issue features three different takes on The Widows of Eastwick, Updike’s 2008 sequel to The Witches of Eastwick (1984).

In addition to essays on Widows from Judie Newman (“Updike’s Black Widows: The Widows of Eastwick“), James Plath (“The Widows of Eastwick: Updike’s Book of the Dead . . . or Rather, Dying”) and Schiff (“A Second Look at The Widows of Eastwick: Aging Women, Assuaging Guilt, and Updike’s Sequels”), the issue features an Updike bibliography from Schiff and four essays:

“Male Sexuality in John Updike’s Villages,” by Brian Duffy

“Betrayal by Sandstone Farmhouse: Forgiveness in Updike’s ‘Pigeon Feathers’ and ‘The Cats,'” by Peter J. Bailey

“John Updike in Dialogue with J.D. Salinger,” by David Penn, and

“Updike in Love,” by Donald J. Greiner.

If you are a member and you haven’t received your copy yet, either you live abroad and it’s on its way, or you moved and forgot to tell the society. The John Updike Society is free to members. To join or to send an address update, contact James Plath, jplath@iwu.edu. For information on institutional subscriptions only, contact James Schiff, james.schiff@uc.edu.

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 5.56.33 PMRomper.com today posted a list article by Lindsay Mack, “11 Books With Amazing Sequels, So You Can Keep On Reading,” and one of the 11 she selected was John Updike’s The Witches of Eastwick and The Widows of Eastwick. In fact, they’re the first books on her list.

“John Updike’s The Witches of Eastwick follows the adventures of three women who find themselves beset with amazing powers, as well as the interest of an intriguing newcomer to the town. And this bitingly humorous story continues with The Widows of Eastwick, in which the trio reconvenes 30 years later to come to terms with their pasts.”

And, one might add, aging . . . a frequent theme of Updike’s.

Also making her list: Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan; The Other Boleyn Girl and The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory; Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow and Children of God; Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and No Longer at Ease; The Shining and Dr. Sleep by Stephen King; Amitav Gosh’s Sea of Poppies and River of Smoke; Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You and After You; Gregory Maguire’s Wicked and Son of a Witch; War Horse and Farm Boy by Michael Morpurgo; and Kent Haruf’s Plainsong and Eventide.

Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 5.14.05 PMWriter Sebastian Faulks shared his six favorite books with The Week, and one of them is by John Updike.

In “Sebastian Faulks’ 6 favorite books,” posted 6 Feb. 2016, he names, in no apparent order, A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr, Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad, The Rack by A.E. Ellis, The House on Moon Lake by Francesca Duranti, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark, and Endpoint, by Updike.

In choosing the latter Faulks writes, “John Updike kept writing even as he lay dying in the hospital: the man as pen. In his last poems he gives thanks for his life and his ability to write in verses that are unsentimental and at times deeply moving. An Updike character once said that in death what he would most miss was not being alive, but being American. A wonderful farewell to his readers.”

Faulks recent novel is Where My Heart Used to Beat, a work of historical fiction about a psychiatrist who comes to terms with memories of World War II and his father’s past.

HiesterRichardCLR_20160205Richard K. Hiester died on Jan. 31, 2016 at the age of 86. Though he was employed for 35 years by Dana Corp. and though he was a U.S. Navy veteran who served during the Korean Conflict, he was perhaps best known in Berks County for his basketball prowess and for his nickname: “Rabbit.” John Updike, three years his junior at Shillington H.S., famously appropriated the nickname in creating his most famous fictional character, Harry Angstrom, the protagonist of four novels and a novella—two of which would win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Memorials can be made to Heartland Hospice, 4 Park Plaza, Wyomissing, PA 19610, or Home Instead Senior Care, 881 Marcon Blvd., Suite 3700, Allentown, PA  18109. Other condolences can be offered on the website of Edward J. Kuhn Funeral Home, www.kuhnfuneralhome.com. The society offers its sincere condolences to his children, Brian D., husband of Kathleen Hiester, Wernersville, and Todd K. Hiester, Sinking Spring, and his grandchildren.

Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 8.03.01 AMIn reviewing Living on Paper: Letters from Iris Murdoch, 1934-1995 (Princeton Univ. Press) for the National Post, Robert Fulford cited John Updike prominently. His review begins,

“Dame Iris Murdoch, a much-admired novelist for several decades, was also a bold sexual adventuress. Perhaps she was a love addict before that term was popularized in the 1970s (and with it the 12-step program, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous). She had many lovers and a close attention to sex was crucial in her life and art.

“According to John Updike, love was for Murdoch what the sea was for Joseph Conrad and war was for Ernest Hemingway. Updike considered her the leading English novelist of her time and believed she learned the human condition through her relationships. Her tumultuous love life, he wrote, was ‘a long tutorial in suffering, power, treachery, and bliss.’ Updike believed that in reading her novels he could feel the ideas, images and personalities of her life pouring through her.”

“The intimate biography of Iris Murdoch,” by Robert Fulford

Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 6.03.56 PMIn case you missed the talk on “Family Archaeology: Pictures, Objects, Words” that David Updike gave at the Third Biennial John Updike Society Conference at Alvernia University, you can see him deliver that same presentation at the Belmont Public Library, 336 Concord Ave., Belmont, Mass., at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 25.

David, the oldest son of John Updike, is also an accomplished author, and books will be available for sale and signing after the presentation, which is succinctly described on the Library’s Web site: “David Updike combines family photographs with prose from John Updike’s stories and memoirs, in addition to excerpts from short stories written by John’s mother, to reveal important aspects of John Updike’s early life.”

For additional details, call the library at (617) 489-2000.