Editor James Schiff and managing editor Nicola Mason have much to be proud of after publishing 10 strong issues of The John Updike Review, but Schiff has outdone himself with the Winter 2018 issue. The “Three Writers on” section focuses on Updike’s “Bech Noir,” and four new cartoons by the legendary Arnold Roth accompany that short story. As Schiff writes in an introduction,
“Our special guest is Arnold Roth, whose work has enriched American culture for more than a half century. His drawings have appeared on New Yorker covers and in the pages of the New York Times, Punch, Time, Playboy, and Sports Illustrated, and he was Updike’s choice to design the dust jackets of his three Bech books. I initially invited Arnie, as he is called by his wife Caroline, to draw an image of Bech for our front cover. When he accepted, I grew greedy and asked if he would consider creating additional images. About a month later, the four drawings that you see here arrived via email, along with a personal note from Arnie, indicating how ‘it had been a pleasure spending time with the old gang’. He went on to say that he looked forward to seeing what we would do with the drawings, adding, ‘I’m sure you’ll be more gentle than our hero.’
“Updike, who harbored early ambitions of becoming a cartoonist, once said, ‘All cartoonists are geniuses, but Arnold Roth especially so’. We agree. These new drawings reflect Arnold’s skill, energy, and improvisational genius. Even more remarkable, Arnold Roth was born in 1929, when Calvin Coolidge was President, and he began drawing album covers for Dave Brubeck in 1950. Nearly seven decades later, at the age of eighty-eight, he continues to draw magnificently. As Updike wrote, ‘A superabundant creative spirit surges through a Roth drawing like electricity; the lines sizzle’. We are delighted to feature his images along with Updike’s ‘Bech Noir’.”
Also included in the issue are essays from Julialicia Case, Gary Weissman, D. Quentin Miller, Peter J. Bailey, Donald J. Greiner, Alex Pitofsky, Sean Madden, Gideon Nachman, and Schiff, with a review by Sue Norton. Pictured above is a 2016 photo of Roth at ComicCon.