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?”
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.
One Grand Books asked celebs to name the 10 books they’d take with them to a desert island, and legendary designer Chip Kidd, who spoke at the 3rd Biennial John Updike Society Conference at Alvernia University in Reading, Pa., unsurprisingly listed Updike’s Rabbit, Run as one of his titles. His comments are incredibly insightful, starting with Updike:
Rabbit, Run, by John Updike
Whenever anyone asks me where I’m from, I ask them if they’re familiar with Updike’s Rabbit books. If they are, then they know exactly what it was like where I grew up. Updike’s father was my father’s high-school math teacher in tiny Shillington, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Reading. That the author returned to this completely unremarkable place for inspiration throughout his lifelong career is a source of endless fascination for me. I used to joke that it was like a great painter being inspired by the color beige.
But how about his take on Salinger?
Nine Stories, by J.D. Salinger
I know this is more than a little obvious, but it’s also the only book of his that I enjoy rereading. There, I said it. In both “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” and “For Esmé With Love and Squalor” are two very different and devastating depictions of PTSD, a full seven decades before it was a thing.
Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov
As a brilliantly merciless portrait of mid-20th-century middle America alone, this book is a masterpiece. But we all know it is much more than that. I tend to see it as an intriguingly fiendish parody of Moby-Dick.
Read the full article on Vulture.
John Updike Society president Jim Plath reports that he earned $10.70 for the society just by listing The John Updike Society as the charitable beneficiary on his account. He spent no more money, and did nothing special after the initial sign-up. All he did was bookmark Amazon Smile and the site automatically credited The John Updike Society for any purchases made. $10.70 might not sound like a lot, but if all of the 300 members shopped via Amazon Smile? It adds up. Go to https://smile.amazon.com to get started….
Thanks to the Robert and Adele Schiff Family Foundation, the John Updike Society was able to offer grants to scholars to help them travel to Serbia to present their work at the 5th Biennial John Updike Society Conference in Belgrade, June 1-5, 2018.
The society is pleased to announce the recipients of the $1500 Schiff Travel Grants for young scholars under 40 and also the recipients of the $1000 Schiff Travel Grants for members to help defray travel expenses so they can share their projects in Belgrade:
2018 Schiff Travel Grant Recipients ($1500)
Matthew Asprey Gear (“Mustered Opinions: John Updike’s Non-Fiction Collections”)
Natia Kvachakidze (“‘Words, words words’ Or Some Peculiarities of the Georgian Translation of John Updike’s ‘Tomorrow and Tomorrow and So Forth'”)
Lynn Leibowitz-Whitehead (“The Religion of Sex: An Evaluation of Its Effects on the Family Unit in Updike’s Couples“)
Gideon Nachtman (“Artificial in Essence”: Reevaluating the Critical and Academic Reception of John Updike’s Light Verse”)
2018 Schiff Travel Grant Recipients ($1000)
Louis Gordon (“Updike’s Middle East”)
Jon Houlon (“The Ballad of Henry Bech”)
Wei Lun Lu (“Translating, Rendering and Reconstructing Updike’s Stream of Consciousness: The Case of ‘A&P’s Translations into Mandarin”)
The PECO Foundation has supported The John Updike Society’s efforts to restore The John Updike Childhood Home in Shillington, Pa., since 2012, and they continue to support the society’s efforts to turn the house at 117 Philadelphia Ave. into a literary landmark and museum with a new $10,000 donation.
Society members who attended the May, 2017 American Literature Society conference in Boston got to meet Roemer and Constance McPhee, who attended the society’s business meeting. At that time they were honored with the society’s Distinguished Service Award in recognition of their continued support.
Through their PECO Foundation, Roemer and Connie have contributed more than $80,000 these past five years to help with the restoration, making them the second largest donor, behind the Robert and Adele Schiff Family Foundation, whose initial donation enabled the society to purchase the home. This latest donation comes at a time when money is needed to purchase museum cases and to mount exhibits.
The David Foster Wallace and John Updike societies are co-sponsoring a session on “Great Male Narcissists” at the 29th Annual Conference of the American Literature Association, May 24-27, 2018, in San Francisco, Calif.
The purpose of the panel is to explore “Great Male Narcissists,” a phrase Wallace used to describe Updike, Philip Roth, and Norman Mailer in his acerbic review of Updike’s late work, Toward the End of Time. This panel intends to explore the connections and disparities between Updike’s and Wallace’s work, especially with regard to their depictions of masculinity. The aim is to complicate and introduce new ideas to both fields.
Here are more details.
Please note that the deadline for abstracts of no more than 300 words is January 15. Include your name, institutional affiliation, and contact information and attach your abstract as a Word document. Also indicate if you’ll need AV equipment and remember that scholars are limited to one presentation at this conference. Send your abstracts to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
ALA Annual Conference information
The November 30 deadline is fast approaching for those Updike scholars and up-and-coming Updike scholars wanting to apply for a Schiff Travel Grant to help them attend the 5th Biennial John Updike Society Conference in Belgrade, Serbia. The conference, hosted by the Faculty of Philology at the University of Belgrade, will take place the first week in June 2018. The conference is shaping up to be one of the most memorable.
First-time programs always get fewer applicants than one imagines. Don’t miss out on an opportunity of a lifetime. Propose a paper to present! Up to four $1500 grants will be awarded to scholars under 40 and up to three $1000 travel-to-conference grants will be awarded to society members needing assistance. And these days, who doesn’t?
The travel grants are the result of a generous donation from The Robert and Adele Schiff Family Foundation, whose support has enabled The John Updike Society to purchase and restore The John Updike Childhood Home in Shillington, Pa. Applicants need not be members at the time of application, but must join the society before grants can be paid.
Both types of grants are merit- and need-based.
TO APPLY: Interested scholars should send to James Plath (email@example.com):
—a one-page proposal for a 15- to 20-minute paper appropriate for the conference
—one additional paragraph about yourself, what grant you are applying for, and why the grant is important to you.
The selection committee will make their decisions and announce successful applicants by the end of the first week of December 2017.
Registration and conference information