Blogger turns to Updike for Thanksgiving thankfulness

Patrick Kurp, who writes Anecdotal Evidence: A blog about the intersection of books and life, yesterday turned to Updike for his Thanksgiving post, “Give Thanks for Gradual Ceaseless Rot.”

“Everything I have is more and better than I deserve,” Kurp wrote. “I like expressions of gratitude for things that have never occurred to me. Take John Updike’s thankfulness for decomposition in ‘Ode to Rot’:

“All process is reprocessing;
give thanks for gradual ceaseless rot
gnawing gross Creation fine while we sleep,
the lightning-forged organic conspiracy’s
merciful counterplot.”

Read the full blog post.

Updike and terrorism paper presented at India teacher’s conference

John Updike Society member Pradipta Sengupta reports that his paper that he presented on “Terrorism and John Updike” at the 65th All India English Teacher’s Conference was well received.

The three-day conference was organized by the Department of English, Nava Nalanda Mahavihara, Nalanda, Bihar and held in Rajgir, Bihar. The theme of the Nov. 24-25 conference was “Emergence, Essence, and Presence.”

Witches of Eastwick remake is reportedly in development

The Internet Movie Database only notes that a new Witches of Eastwick movie is “in development,” but Distractify published a piece yesterday on “Here’s Everything We Know About the ‘The Witches of Eastwick’ Remake So Far.”

Quoting Warner Bros. Screen Daily, Katherine Stinson reported that the project is moving forward with Swedish filmmaker Ninja Thyberg “attached to the project to direct” and producers currently working on the project “include husband-and-wife producing team Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher.” Stinson wrote that Wick’s previous producing credits included Gladiator, Memoirs of a Geisha, The Great Gatsby, and two Divergent films, while Fisher, in addition to those films, was involved with the 2005 Bewitched movie adaptation.

The original 1987 film starred Jack Nicholson, Cher, Susan Sarandon, and Michelle Pfeiffer, with Updike later identifying Pfeiffer as his favorite.

Updike film adaptation makes a must-see Halloween list

Here’s one poll that might have amused John Updike: the Jacksonville (Ill.) Journal-Courier asked readers to vote on their must-see films for Halloween, and, wouldn’t you know it, the cinematic adaptation of Updike’s novel The Witches of Eastwick made the list. That’s no doubt because of Jack Nicholson’s over-the-top performance as Darryl Van Horne and director George Miller’s decision to go Beetlejuice wild with Updike’s story of three divorcees in a small New England town where sexual politics and witchy mischief take center stage.

The 1987 Warner Bros. film starred Cher as Alexandra, Susan Sarandon as Jane, and Michelle Pfeiffer as Sukie, with Veronica Cartwright playing Felicia and Richard Jenkins playing Clyde.

Editor David C.L. Bauer said that readers could choose from a list of “100 movies of all genres or add their own.” The Witches of Eastwick was the second film cited in the article, right after It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and ahead of The Ring, Coraline, Fright Night, Goosebumps, Evil Dead, Young Frankenstein, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Hocus Pocus.

Rotten Tomatoes critics weren’t quite as enthusiastic. Sixty-six percent of the critics who saw the film thought it was “fresh” and merited a 6 out of 10 or better.

Read the whole article.

Oxford writer names Updike’s Rabbit series a shaping influence

Writing for a new Oxford University newspaper, The Oxford Blue, Nicholas Champness identified “Books That Made Me: Rabbit.” He of course was referring to Updike’s Rabbit,Run, Rabbit Redux, Rabbit Is Rich, and Rabbit at Rest, collected together in the Everyman’s Library as Rabbit Angstrom.

First UK Edition

“The novels deal with a period of great change in American society. We see American change from the Eisenhower era, through the ‘Summer of Love,’ then Watergate, the Vietnam War, Reaganomics, and the Cold War. However, the focus of the novels is not on the great sweeping canvas of history and certainly not an influential figure. Rather, Updike presents us with history and politics as they affect a real person, someone totally ordinary with little claim to fame other than the provincial sporting prowess of his youth. The canvas of current affairs becomes the conversations had in the car en route to the ball game, opinions discussed curtly over the dinner table. Simply put, Updike shows how the ‘ordinary Joe’ reacts to these events,” Champness wrote.

“He draws his characters, rather than simply describing them. He makes them authentic and believable, imbued with nuance. Well-drawn female characters in the series can prove to be somewhat sparse, for which Updike has faced criticism. Yet, I wonder whether this is an issue,” Champness wrote.

“Rabbit’s mundanity and Updike’s decision that such mundanity is a worthy subject of literature invites the reader to reconsider. What is the point of literature and what is a worthy subject of it? What makes something beautiful or otherwise? Perhaps, then, we can understand Updike’s role as one of a mediator. He invites his reader to see the beauty in the ordinary,” Champness wrote.

“Updike’s treatment of life is one of the main reasons why I chose this series. Updike shows us that life and humans are much the same; they are both flawed and mundane, yet this is where we find beauty in them. I often find myself coming back to the ideas expressed here,” Champness wrote.

Nobel laureate cites Updike influence

Turkish novelist and playwright Orhan Pamuk, who was awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature, is now his country’s best-selling and most prominent writer. His books have sold more than 13 million copies internationally, with Snow, a novel that captures the sociopolitical milieu of 21st-century Turkey, drawing extra attention for its narrator, whom readers are meant to interpret as Pamuk himself.

Pamuk talked with The Saturday Paper writer Amal Awad about his most recent novel, Nights of Plague, which he began before the pandemic and which Awad described as a “historical murder mystery set on the imaginary Mediterranean island of Mingheria during an epidemic” of bubonic plague, adding “it’s Pamuk’s Moby-Dick, weighing in at nearly 700 pages.”

During their interview, Awad said that they talked “about criticism—both literary and hate speech—how the Turkish media is full of people expressing their hatred of him. ‘They haven’t read anything [I’ve written] and I’m proud to say that,’ Pamuk says, laughing. ‘If a literary criticism hurts, there are two criteria. One, it damages economically, the book won’t sell; that is very bad. And the other is you actually have a high opinion of this person and you want his approval.’

“Pamuk rarely worries about the latter nowadays,” Awad wrote, “but he says he has benefited from literary criticism and acknowledgment from his elders throughout his life. ‘John Updike made me famous in the United States,’ he says. ‘A critic who is 30 years older than me, made me in Turkey. There’s always been good, nice critics.'”

Read the whole article.

Updike novel named one of the 35 funniest books

Go ahead and guess. You know you want to.

Is it one of the novels (or short story cycles) featuring the irascible and irrepressible Henry Bech, Updike’s Jewish-writer alter ego?

Is it The Coup, Updike’s satire of American overconsumption and African dictators?

Is it one of Updike’s so-called Scarlet Letter trilogy–the commune exploits of S. or the punitive desert retreat to which that serial philanderer Tom Marshfield was sentenced that held comic forth in A Month of Sundays?

Nope. In the estimation of the folks at ShortList, it’s Updike’s Hawthornesque romp The Witches of Eastwick, which comes in at No. 13 on their list.

“The big screen adaptation is naturally hilarious,” ShortList writes, “but Updike’s original source material is a wonderful exercise in satire. Three women in the Rhode Island town of Eastwick acquire witch-like powers after being spurned by their husbands. Swearing to wreak vengeance they run amok until the mysterious appearance of Darryl Van Horne. What follows is high farce and social satire rolled into one. Mischievous doesn’t begin to cover it.”

Updike poem is the subject of The Christian Humanist Podcast

The Christian Humanist Podcast recently turned to John Updike’s poem “Americana” for Episode 332, with MIchial Farmer and David Grubbs talking about the poem, airports, and hotel rooms.

The Christian Humanist Podcast is the work of “Three Christians, teachers, and intellectuals [who] gather digitally to hold forth on literature, theology, philosophy, and other things human beings do well. Taking the question at hand utterly seriously and ourselves not at all, the Christian Humanists attempt to record weekly during the school year and take on some interesting questions.” Nathan Gilmour, who is not a part of this episode, is the third Christian Humanist.

Writer finds inspiration in Updike’s Letter to a Baby Boomer

A guest columnist for the Daily Post Athenian [Tenn.] was inspired by Updike’s essay “Letter to a Baby Boomer” to write “a similar epistle to my former students, who now range between the ages of 30 and 45.”

Stephen W. Dick, a teacher at Athens Junior High School from 1989-2005 and a baby boomer himself, wrote that in Updike’s “Letter to a Baby Boomer” [re: those born between 1946-1964], “Mr. Updike, born in 1932 and writing to the generation following his own, simultaneously challenges and reassures us. Of course, addressing any generation in its entirety involves significant generalization, but thinking of us baby boomers, I believe we could largely agree on how we are perceived, even if individually we don’t fit those perceptions.”

“According to Mr. Updike, we baby boomers, in our youth, ‘went to Woodstock, experienced altered states of consciousness, protested Vietnam, fought in it, or both.’

“In our adulthood, he writes that we ‘invented yuppieness, health consciousness, and corporate greed.’

“That stings, especially the last. Time always erodes youthful idealism, but my generation didn’t give it time to erode. We abruptly abandoned it, citing spouses and/or children as rationales, as if the future we once imagined couldn’t include families,” Dick wrote.

“In his conclusion to ‘Letter to a Baby Boomer,’ Updike quotes Shakespeare’s Prospero who, upon retiring, feared that ‘Every third thought shall be my grave.’

“Updike suggests the first two thoughts should be these: (1) Love one another, and (2) Seize the day. Those, I think, are beyond amendment.”

Vanity Fair writer lists Bech: A Book among eight compelling reads

Keziah Weir recently published a piece in Vanity Fair revealing “8 Books We Couldn’t Put Down This Month.” And what better fall reading is there than that Updike fall guy, Henry Bech—Updike’s Nobel Prizewinning Jewish alter ego, who tends to get in the same kind of awkward situations as Larry David?

The “we” includes Pulitzer Prizewinning novelist Andrew Sean Greer, who tells Weir that he “felt a certain kinship with other writers who returned to the same character and voice again and again: ‘Most obviously for me is John Updike, his Rabbit books and his Bech books. Much more the Bech books, because there, John Updike seems to be just having a really good time, and I think those are more successful, looking back, than the Rabbit books, which just seem too misogynous to read. The Bech books are still a hoot.'”

Greer, who wrote Less and the sequel Less is Lost, also talks comparatively about Philip Roth and Updike before adding, “Finding a voice you want to always write in is just . . . You don’t want to let go of that for something else.” Maybe that explains why Updike chose to keep writing Rabbit novels and even a novella after his character’s death, and why Roth wrote about Nathan Zuckerman in “half his books.”