February 2018

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All of us at The John Updike Society were saddened to see the notice that Michael Updike just posted on Facebook that his mother, Mary Pennington (Updike) Weatherall, has died. Mary, John Updike’s first wife and the mother of his four children, was a supporter of the society from the very beginning. She donated money to help us restore the childhood home, donated objects for display that once belonged to Updike, took part in a family panel at the first conference in Reading, Pa., and even welcomed into her home all who attended the second conference in Boston.

We offer our sympathies to the family but share in the feeling of tremendous loss. All who were privileged to meet and spend any time with Mary know how warm and kind and generous she was, and how helpful she has been to Updike scholars over the years. She will be sorely missed, and our hearts go out to her children, Elizabeth Cobblah Updike, David Updike, Michael Updike, and Miranda Updike and their families.

We will post more information as we receive it.

Members who attended the 4th Biennial John Updike Society Conference at the University of South Carolina know that the university is home to the Don and Ellen Greiner Collection of John Updike and the Jack De Bellis Collection of John Updike (1976-2008), as well as the Matthew J. Bruccoli Collection. Bruccoli, the preeminent F. Scott Fitzgerald scholar who died in 2008, also founded the “Understanding Literature” series of introductory critical works that is now being edited by Linda Wagner-Martin. And this April, the series gets a new volume on John Updike: Understanding John Updike, by Frederic Svoboda.

From the University of South Carolina Press:

“The winner of every major American literary prize, John Updike (1932–2009) was one of the most popular and prolific novelists of his time and a major cultural figure who traced the high point and fall of midcentury American self-confidence and energy. A superb stylist with sixty books to his credit, he brilliantly rendered the physical surfaces of the nation’s life even as he revealed the intense longings beneath those surfaces. In Understanding John Updike, Frederic Svoboda elucidates the author’s deep insights into the second half of the twentieth century as seen through the lives of ordinary men and women. He offers extended, close readings of Updike’s most significant works of fiction, templates through which his entire oeuvre may be understood.

“A small-town Pennsylvanian whose prodigious talent took him to Harvard, a staff position at the New Yorker, and ultimately a life in suburban Massachusetts, where the pace of his literary output never slowed, Updike was very much in the American cultural tradition. His series of Rabbit Angstrom novels strongly echo Sinclair Lewis’s earlier explorations of middle America, while The Witches of Eastwick and related novels are variations on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s nineteenth-century classic The Scarlet Letter. His number one best seller Couples examines what Time magazine called “the adulterous society” in the last year of the Kennedy administration, following the nation’s fall from idealism into self-centeredness. Understanding John Updike will give both new readers and those already familiar with the author a firm grasp of his literary achievement. This outline of Updike’s professional career highlights his importance in the life of the nation—not only as a novelist but also as a gifted essayist, reviewer, cultural critic, and poet.

“Frederic Svoboda is a professor and former chair of the English Department and director of the Graduate Program in American Culture at the University of Michigan–Flint. He served two terms as a director and treasurer of the Ernest Hemingway Foundation and is the author or editor of several books. His most recent publication, co-edited with Suzanne del Gizzo, is Hemingway’s The Garden of Eden: Twenty-five Years of Criticism.”

Contents: Ch. 1 – Understanding John Updike; Ch. 2 – The Rabbit Angstrom Tetralogy: Updike’s Masterpiece and Template for Understanding His Works; Ch. 3 – The Maples Stories, Olinger Stories, and Other Short Fiction; Ch. 4 – Couples (1968); Ch. 5 – The Shadow of Nathaniel Hawthorne and New England Puritanism: The Eastwick and Scarlet Letter novels; Ch. 6 – Guide to Major Works: The Henry Bech Novellas; Ch. 7- A Brief Summing Up. A bibliography and index are also included.

Specs: 152 pages, 6×9″ trim size, hardcover SRP $39.99, ebook $21.99. According to Amazon.com, Understanding John Updike is scheduled for April 1, 2018 release. No fooling.

 

Variety magazine reported that “BBC Worldwide-backed producer Lookout Point has secured the rights to John Updike’s ‘Rabbit’ novels, with ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ scribe Andrew Davies (Photo: The Telegraph) set to adapt the series of books for TV.”

So in the future, does that mean Rabbit Reruns?

Not much is known yet. “No co-production or channel partners have been announced,” the story by Stewart Clarke reported, but writer Davies is quoted:

“As a young man, I read Rabbit, Run when it came out and thought: Gosh, this is what life is all about,” Davies said. “I have hoped for a long time to adapt Updike’s novels and I’m thrilled to embark on this journey now.”

Peter White, who first broke the story for Deadline Hollywood, reported that Lookout Point “won the rights and the support from the Updike estate,” which suggests there may have been other interested parties—a good sign for Updike’s legacy.

The link to the Variety story is below, after which there’s a link to an expanded story that appeared days later in the Boston Globe, who speculate that “this may be the beginning of a new understanding of Updike—triggered by the Brits.”

“BBC-Backed Lookout Point Options John Updike’s ‘Rabbit’ Novels”

“John Updike’s Rabbit Angstrom novels will be adapted for TV”