January 2018

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Is there anything more difficult than finding the time to write a proposal for a paper topic for an academic conference when you’re up to your elbows in class prep and student papers to grade?

But if you want to be a part of the historic first John Updike Society conference outside the U.S., there’s still a chance. The 5th Biennial John Updike Society Conference will be held 1-5 June 2018 at the Faculty of Philology, University of Belgrade. Conference director Biljana Dojcinovic has announced that the deadline for proposals for conference papers has been extended to February 15. All hotel rooms must be booked by March 1, because Belgrade has become an extremely popular tourist destination and early summer the weather is beautiful.

Roundtable discussion panel ideas will also be accepted, if you and colleagues prefer to work in that format rather than presenting a paper and then facing questions afterwards. If you propose a roundtable discussion, please be sure to include the names of all proposed participants—usually four or five.

Details on how to submit a proposal are included below in the PDF registration packet for the conference. Here too you’ll find a tentative schedule of events and tours and details on keynote speakers.

Updike in Serbia registration

 

European Perspectives on John Updike, a collection of essays edited by Laurence W. Mazzeno and Sue Norton featuring scholars living and working in Europe, is scheduled for publication in June 2018. From the Camden House/Boydell and Brewer Spring 2018 catalog:

“From the publication in 1958 of his first book, the American writer John Updike attracted an international readership. His books have been translated into twenty-three languages. He had a strong following in the United Kingdom and it was also common to find Updike’s work reviewed in publications in Germany, France, Italy, and other countries. Although Updike died in 2009, interest in his writing remains strong among European scholars. They are active in The John Updike Society and on The John Updike Review (which began publishing in 2011). During the past four decades, several Europeans have influenced the study of Updike worldwide. No recent volume, however, collects diverse European views on his oeuvre. The current book fills that void, presenting essays that perceive Updike’s renditions of America through the eyes of scholar-readers from both Western and Eastern Europe.”
The book is part of the European Perspectives on North American Authors series published by Camden House.  It includes essays from such scholars as Judie Newman, Sylvie Mathé, Biljana Dojčinović, Teresa Botelho, Eva-Sabine Zehelein, Brian Duffy, Karin Ikas, Andrew Tate, Aristi Trendel, Ulla Kriebernegg, Kasia Boddy, and Norton.
The book specifications, according to Camden House:  309pp., 9×6″ trim size, hardcover. Suggested retail price is $99.00 U.S. Libraries, scholars, and Updike lovers can now pre-order the title from the publisher or through Amazon.com.

Yesterday a new major exhibition—You Say You Want a Revolution—opened at the New York Public Library in collaboration with Carnegie Hall’s citywide festival, “The ’60s: The Years that Changed America.” The exhibition will run through September 1, 2018.

Timothy Leary’s notes on his experiences with psychedelic drugs; Tom Wolfe’s notes about Haight-Ashbury for his book The Electric Kool-aid Acid Test; Gloria Steinem’s letter to The New York Times‘ Abe Rosenthal; John Updike’s opinion on the Vietnam War: The contemplative and divergent themes of the 1960s can be rediscovered through over 125 artifacts in The New York Public Library’s new exhibition, You Say You Want a Revolution: Remembering the 60s.

Featuring material from three of the Library’s research centers—the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the Library for the Performing Arts—the free exhibition is curated by Isaac Gewirtz of NYPL’s Berg Collection of English and American Literature. It opens in Gottesman Exhibition Hall at the Library’s renowned 42nd Street Library on January 19, 2018, and will remain open to the public through September 1.

Exhibition hours are Mondays 10am-6pm, Tuesday and Wednesdays 10am-7:30pm, Thursday, Friday and Saturdays 10am-6pm, and Sundays 1-5pm.

Here’s the article from the NYPL blog.

For 35 years, “big name” writers have visited the New York State Writers Institute at the University of Albany to read from their work and talk about their work in interviews. Soon, the Times Union reports, all of those taped sessions from roughly 2000 writers will be digitalized and made available to the public.

“John Updike is in there, tucked away. Fellow novelists Kurt Vonnegut, Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison, Norman Mailer, Russel Banks. The filmmaker Edward Burns. The poets Derek Walcott and John Ashbery, who both died last year. Isaac Bashevis Singer and Saul Bellow—the first visiting writer from 1984, just a year after William Kennedy created the Institute.”

Some of the earliest recordings were made on reel-to-reel tape. Digitalizing everything is a huge undertaking, but Institute director Paul Grondahl thinks they can complete the task in about a year.

Not all of the 2000 writers interviewed yielded literary gems.

“It’s this sea of incredible literature magic that happened here,” Grondahl said. “But you gotta dig deep to find the pearls. You gotta dive down.

Until then, scholars and the merely curious can access snippets that have been posted on The Writers Institute You Tube channel or keep checking luna.albany.edu for progress.

 

It’s not exactly as monumental as the reassurance that the New York Sun famously gave in their 1897 editorial, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” but Cienna Madrid offers a highly literate and darned-near definitive sounding response to a Seattle Review of Books reader who was upset by “all the harassing men in the media lately” and had written, “At some point, we have to realize that a writer who writes about treating women horribly is probably pretty likely to treat women horribly, right? I mean, I’m not saying that they should be locked up or anything, but women would be smart to avoid authors who write approvingly about being monstrous harassers, wouldn’t they?”

Madrid responded, “I’d like to agree with you. It would make life simple if we could pass sweeping moral assumptions about artists based solely on their work. But that’s not—or shouldn’t be—the role of art.

“To me, good art pushes its audience to think about aspects of humanity in ways they have never previously considered, or points out beautiful or horrible trends in our culture that deserve scrutiny or celebration.

“Have you read Rabbit, Run? That’s a pretty great example of a total shitbag character who peaked in high school and has no respect for women. However, through Rabbit, John Updike explores themes of alienation and the idea that American men aren’t socialized with the vocabulary to express their emotions and basic desires (among other things).

“It would be a shame if artists shied away from exploring and commenting on the world because they feared retribution,” Madrid writes.

Read the full article:  “The Help Desk: Do only terrible men write books about terrible men?”

Whether it’s home or abroad, no one wants to fly to an academic conference solely to sit in meeting rooms. People want to see some of the local sights, which is why for every conference thus far The John Updike Society has set aside one day for group travel. Everyone is still free to explore on their own, but the group day is a shared experience, a shared adventure.

Be sure to sign up for the Serbian Day Trip when you register for the Fifth Biennial John Updike Society Conference, hosted by the Faculty of Philology, University of Belgrade, June 1-5.

Conference director Biljana Dojčinović has shared, on a Powerpoint, a few photos she took of the three main sites we will visit this June (though of course it’s also a treat to take a bus ride into the countryside to see what’s beyond the city!):

Fundraising to mount exhibits at the John Updike Childhood Home just became less of a priority, thanks to a more than generous donation from the Robert and Adele Schiff Family Foundation.

The Ohio-based foundation, which initially donated the money for the John Updike Society to purchase the house at 117 Philadelphia Ave. in Shillington, and which has supported the society’s ongoing efforts to restore the house and turn it into a literary center and museum, donated $200,000 to the society before the New Year.

That’s something to celebrate, John Updike Society president James Plath said. The donation ensures that once suitable curatorial help is found and a timetable created, the society will be able to take the next step and pay to have someone qualified help construct exhibits.

“This donation is enough to get us to the finish line,” said Plath, who was recently named to the Affiliates Steering Committee of the American Writers Museum in Chicago—a recognition of how far The John Updike Childhood Home has come.

“All of our donors have made a huge difference, but I think it’s safe to say that The Robert and Adele Schiff Family Foundation has been most responsible for the rapid growth of our organization.

The Robert and Adele Schiff Family Foundation was also responsible for seven Schiff Travel Grants that were recently awarded to young scholars to help them get to Serbia for the 5th Biennial John Updike Society Conference at the University of Belgrade.

Pictured are the front parlor/”piano room” and dining room showing recently installed period-authentic roller shades.