The AARP Updike . . .

Not surprisingly, since much of John Updike’s writing dealt with aging and mortality, his works have resonated with members of AARP.

In July 2006, Updike contributed an essay on “The Writer in Winter” to AARP The Magazine, in which he began, “Young or old, a writer sends a book into the world, not himself. There is no Senior Tour for authors, with the tees shortened by 20 yards and carts allowed. No mercy is extended by the reviewers; but then it is not extended to the rookie writer, either. He or she may feel, as the gray-haired scribes of the day continue to take up space and consume oxygen in the increasingly small room of the print world, that the elderly have the edge, with their established names and already secured honors. How we did adore and envy them, the idols of our college years—Hemingway and Faulkner, Frost and Eliot, Mary McCarthy and Flannery O’Connor and Eudora Welty! We imagined them aswim in a heavenly refulgence, as joyful and immutable in their exalted condition as angels forever singing.

“Now that I am their age—indeed, older than a number of them got to be—I can appreciate the advantages, for a writer, of youth and obscurity.” (Read the whole “Life Lessons” essay)

In “Books for Grownups December 2008,” AARP The Magazine recommended The Widows of Eastwick: “Quintessential boomer author Updike checks in on the witches of Eastwick and finds them older, but no less crafty and bawdy.”

In “Books for Grownups August 2009,” The Magazine included My Father’s Tears as another example of “What Our Generation Wants to Read!”: “Updike’s final book, a collection of short stories, is heavy with mid- and late-life troubles, from the mundane to the crushing. He’s in fine form here, and reading these might have you reaching for your old copy of Rabbit, Run.”

In 2013, The Magazine published Erica Jong’s list of “10 Essential Boomer Books,” and Updike’s Couples made the cut . . . along with J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, Mary McCarthy’s The Group, Stewart Brand’s The Last Whole Earth Catalog, Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint, Robin Morgan’s Sisterhood Is Powerful, Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch, Frances Moore Lappé’s Diet for a Small Planet, and Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying.

A week’s worth of erotica to read this Valentine’s Day

Saumyaa Vohra, writing for the “Sex” section of GQ magazine, recommended “7 best erotic novels to read right now”—the right now, given the timing of the post, presumably being Valentine’s Day.

Number 1 on the list was Luster by Raven Leilani, followed by Carnage (Sarah Bailey), You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty (Akwaeke Emezi), Set (Alexandria House), Call Me By Your Name (André Aciman), What Belongs to You (Garth Greenwell), and John Updike’s Couples.

Of Couples, Vohra wrote, “The former New Yorker writer, poet and Pulitzer Prize winner truly knows how to use the written word to its full potential; and this 1968 novel about a licentious circle of ten couples in the small Massachusetts town of Tarbox is proof of that skill. Rife with historical events of the time (which make the book one with deeper value than simply being smutty indulgence–because one would expect no less from Updike), the book is enjoyable and incredibly hot, going into sexual detail that was unusual for its time but still holds up. And, like any good erotic novel from the days of yore, caused a tonne of controversy at the time.”

Updike makes Cillian Murphy’s Top 10 list

Books of Brilliance asked Irish actor Cillian Murphy (Inception, The Dark Knight, Breakfast on Pluto, Peaky Blinders) to name his 10 favorite books. Murphy, who won a Best Actor Irish Film and Television Award for playing a young trans woman in Breakfast on Pluto, told Books of Brilliance, “I’m less interested in the good man’s life, I’m more interested in the conflicted man’s life or the contradictory man’s life.” That has applied to his choice of roles as well as his choice of reading. Cillian’s 10 favorite books:

The Ginger Man, by J.P. Donleavy
The Butcher Boy, by Patrick McCabe
The Sportswriter, by Richard Ford
Jeff in Venice, Death in Varnasi, by Geoff Dyer
Grief is the Thing with Feathers, by Max Porter
Eclipse, by John Banville
—”Rabbit” series, by John Updike
The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway
The Grass Arena, by John Healy
Appointment in Samarra, by John O’Hara

Updike’s three witches make third on this best-of list

A website named Otakukart just published an article by Arnab Ray on the “45 Best Magical Witch Movies That You Should know,” and wouldn’t you know it, George Miller’s 1987 adaptation of John Updike’s The Witches of Eastwick was the third film listed.

“When a desire comes true at a price, and a male protagonist enters their lives, three lonely and sex-deprived women (Cher, Susan Sarandon, and Michelle Pfeiffer), who have all lost their spouses, meet together once a week for drinking.

“This 1987 dark fantasy-comedy movie, which George Miller directed, is based on a novel written by John Updike. The movie is very fun to watch and will never leave you bored for the sake of establishing plot points.”

Updike included on American Purpose ‘favorite staff reads’ list

American Purpose has a holiday tradition where editorial board members, contributing editors, and staff share their favorite reads from the past year. They call it “Turning the Page.”

Board member Adam Garfinkle, who is also founding editor of The American Interest and serves on the board of advisors at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, chose John Updike’s In the Beauty of the Lilies as his favorite read of 2022.

“John Updike’s 1996 bestseller In the Beauty of the Lilies has become part of the pantheon of fictive meditations on the thick sinews of Protestant Christianity that run deep and wide within the American body social and politic,” wrote Garfinkle, a former speech writer for secretaries of state Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice.

“It tells a multigenerational family tale starting in Paterson, New Jersey, in 1905 and ending four generations and eighty years later in a Waco-like conflagration near Bighorn, Colorado. When I read the book a quarter century ago I marveled at Updike’s storytelling skills despite being unable to bond emotionally with any of the characters—rather like how I have since felt about Marilynne Robinson’s multigenerational Christological stories spread out in multiple books.

“This year’s deliberately slower second reading collided with my more mature ruminations on the wider topic of Protestantism’s shaping of a nation rushing through time, and itself being reshaped in the process. The collision revealed more of Updike’s prophetic shrewdness amid his formidable literary skills than I discerned the first time around. Now that we live truly in an age of spectacle, something still inchoate in 1996, the dancing demons and angels of the Protestant bequest to America appear far more vivid to me. The book didn’t change as time passed, but the reader did.”

Golf Dreams makes another favorites list

Here’s an interesting list: All Sports Book Reviews asked more than 150 sportswriters to name the books they really love–not what books they think are the best. Just their all-time favorites.

With a sample size that large, of course the list is long—some 300 titles—categorized according to sport. Updike’s celebrated Hub Fan Bids Kid Adieu didn’t make the list, but his essays on golf did. Golf Dreams was one of seven favorites that sportswriters cited for links reading.

Other literary writers who turned up on this list include George Plimpton (Paper Lion: Confessions of a Last String Quarterback; Shadow Box: An Amateur in the Ring; The Curious Case of Sidd Finch), Pat Conroy (My Losing Season), Norman Mailer (The Fight), Joyce Carol Oates (On Boxing), and, of course, Richard Ford (The Sportswriter).

Last-minute Updike gifts for the golfer in your family

Remember those brick-and-mortar bookstores, with their cafés and comfy chairs? If you’re in one and have a golfer to buy for over the next few days, several Updike books have made a number of “nice” lists this season.

Writing for Shepherd: Discover the best books, James Y. Bartlett, author of a series of Hacker Golf Mysteries—Death is a Two-Stroke Penalty, Death from the Ladies Tee, and Member-Guest—recommends “The best books of golf fiction.” For literary golf enthusiast John Updike, Bartlett singles out A Month of Sundays.

“John Updike, writing about golf? Well, why not? This novel, from one of America’s greatest writers, is something of a riff on Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter, in a story about a disgraced minister sent off on a sabbatical. He keeps a daily journal, which is what makes up the novel.

“Naturally, this being Updike, there are stories about his affairs, his drinking, his family relationships, and more. But there are also wonderful passages about his golf game. Like much of Updike’s work, this book is thought-provoking and an interesting window into the American mind of the 20th century.”

If your golf devotee is into non-fiction, Updike’s Golf Dreams: Writings on Golf is highly recommended by Golf Digest. It’s one of “The 50 Golf Books Every Golfer Should Read,” according to the editors.

“In his essays, the celebrated writer talks about the experience of playing the game and how we are attached to its subtleties.”

10 Books of Christmas list features the usual suspects . . . and Updike

Shepherd, a blog for book lovers, recently posted an article by Jóhannes úr Kötlum on “10 books like Christmas is Coming” that starts with Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, but instantly moves on to other ghost stories or creepy tales, like The Krampus and the Old, Dark Christmas by Al Ridenour, The Valancourt Book of Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Walter Scott, and Updike’s The Twelve Terrors of Christmas, illustrated by Edward Gorey.

“No list of the delightfully dark would be complete without an appearance by the preeminent gothic illustrator, Edward Gorey. Gorey’s wry, one-of-a-kind style brings to life (and death) John Updike’s dark deconstruction of 12 Christmas traditions. Though it’s now out of print, this title is a must-have for any Edward Gorey enthusiast, and for any fan of the unlimited imaginative potential when artists look beyond the lights of the holiday season to focus on the shadows instead,” Kötlum writes.

Rounding out the list are The Elves And The Shoemaker by the Brothers Grimm and Jim LaMarche, Collected Ghost Stories by M.R. James, A Yuletide Kiss by Glynnis Campbell, The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum, Six Geese a Laying by Emily E.K. Murdoch, and a holiday book not yet ready to give up the ghost: Dark Halloween by Eleanor Merry, Cassandra Angler, and Brian Scutt.

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.

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.”