Updike’s booksigning generosity recalled

Writer-artist-blogger Tim Lemire just published “Yours, John Updike,” a fun piece about signed books, recalling a time in high school when he visited a friend’s house and saw shelf-upon-shelf of books written by John Updike—all of them signed, though his friend’s father wasn’t a professor, a book reviewer, or a fellow novelist. He was an Updike lover . . . and collector.

Lemire tells how that friend’s father and another man showed up at a Harvard event with two duffel bags full of books they wanted Updike to sign.

“I get in line. Updike signs my books; I think him. Turning, I see that Sidney and Charlie have positioned themselves to be the very last in line. . . . Later that night, at home, I get a call from Sidney, who announces with a victor’s pride: ‘He signed them all.’

“Sidney describes the scene: While Mrs. Updike looks on with glowering impatience, John Updike sits in astonishment as one book of his after another is produced like an endless string of colored handkerchiefs from a top hat. As Sidney tells it, Updike delights in re-encountering foreign editions of his books or one-off publications that he had totally forgotten about.

“The story does not end there. The following year, Updike releases yet another book of short stories, and to promote it, he will be reading at the Borders bookstore in Boston’s Downtown Crossing. The newspaper ad for the event reads: ‘One signed book per person. No exceptions.'”

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