New Stephen King novel alludes to Updike et alia

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 7.04.25 AMStephen King, the master of horror who debuted with Carrie (1974), has turned to the newspaper headlines and a trio of literary masters for the subject of his new book. Finders Keepers is about a psychopath’s obsession with writer John Rothstein (a mash-up of John Updike, Philip Roth, and J.D. Salinger), whose “fame comes from his Runner books, a trilogy that tips its hat to Updike’s Rabbit novels,” says Guardian writer James Smythe.

“Finders Keepers by Stephen King—writers, beware your fans”

Sex-on-the-page article includes Updike (of course)

In a story written for The Sacramento Bee books section, writer Sam McManis considers “Sex on the page: Often cringe-worthy, occasionally uplifting.” The pun was most certainly intended, considering some of the examples McManis cites as less than effective—among them this passage from Updike’s Brazil: “…he felt his cashew become a banana, and then a rippled yam.”

Updike’s contemporary and rival Philip Roth also gets “ribbed” for a passage from “The Humbling,” in which he attempts to describe a threesome: “It was as if she were wearing a mask on her genitals, a weird totem mask, that made her into what she was not and was not supposed to be. She could as well have been a crow or a coyote…”

“‘Good sex is impossible to write about,’ [Martin] Amis once told the Washington Post. ‘[D.H.] Lawrence and Updike have given it their all, and the result is still uneasy and unsure. It may be that good sex is something fiction just can’t do—like dreams. Most of the sex in my novels is absolutely disastrous. Sex can be funny, but not very sexy.”

“Yet the late Updike, twice a Pulitzer Prize winner, once told NPR’s Fresh Air that writing about ‘sexual transactions’ is realism at its core and a window into the human condition.

“‘For many people it’s the height of, what they see, of ecstasy and poetry is in their sexual encounters, who, for the record, had the Bad Sex ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ bestowed upon him in 2008, a year before his death. ‘And furthermore … human personality does not end in the bedroom, but persists. Not all lovemaking is alike. Anyway, it seemed a writer should clearly be free to describe it.'”

Katie Roiphe is more complimentary of Updike’s attempts in a 2010 New York Times Book Review essay, especially the passages from the Rabbit novels. A “top-form” passage is cited: “…a little gauge inside his ribs doubles and redoubles his need for pressure…there is no love in it, love that glances and glides along the skin, he is unconscious of their skins, it is her heart he wants to grind into his own, to comfort her completely.’

“Roiphe credits Updike’s ‘unnerving gift: to be frank and anesthetizing all at once, to do poetry and whorehouse,” and gently scolds a newer generation of great American writers…for being passive and sexually ambivalent.”

Random House announces John Updike: Selected Poems

9781101875223Random House announced that John Updike: Selected Poems will go on sale October 13, 2015 in a 320-page hardcover edition edited by Christopher Carduff. The volume features five decades of Updike’s witty, intimate, and moving poems “with the cumulative force of an autobiography in verse,” according to the publisher’s webpage.

“Though John Updike is widely known as one of America’s greatest writers of prose, he began and ended his career with books of poems, and between them published six other accomplished collections. Now, six years after Updike’s death, Christopher Carduff has selected the best of his life’s work in poetry: 132 of his most significant and accomplished poems, from precocious undergraduate efforts to well-known anthology classics to the late-life mastery of the blank-verse sonnet sequence “Endpoint.” Art, nature, popular culture, foreign travel, erotic love, and personal history—these recurring topics provided the poet ever-surprising occasions for metaphysical wonder and matchless verbal invention. His Selected Poems is, as fellow-poet Brad Leithauser writes in his introduction, a celebration of American life in the second half of the twentieth century, and no one but Updike ‘captured upon the page, in prose and in poetry, so much of this passing pageant. That he did so with brio and delight and nimbleness is yet another reason to celebrate our noble celebrant.'”

Suggested list price is $30.00; Amazon is selling the hardcover for $22.80, with a Kindle Edition available for pre-order at $15.99.

Tulane writer-prof wins $20K John Updike Award

tulanelitstarTulane professor and writer Zachary Lazar was announced as the winner of the John Updike Award, a $20,000 prize administered by the Academy of Arts and Letters.

As an article in The Times-Picayune notes, “Lazar is the third writer to win the biennial Updike award, which recognizes mid-career authors who have demonstrated consistent excellence. Martha Updike established the award in memory of her husband, the writer John Updike (1932-2009). Past winners of the Updike award include Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Egan and the poet and dramatist Tom Sleigh.

“The Updike award caps a grand year for Lazar, whose third novel, I Pity the Poor Immigrant, (Little, Brown, $25) earned critical raves when it appeared in April 2014. The New York Times added an additional feather in December, when it put the novel on its list of “100 Notable Books of 2014.”

Roger’s Version stage adaptation nominated for major award

Screen-Shot-2014-06-01-at-7.02.34-AM-300x235Wes Driver
‘s stage adaptation of Roger’s Version, which was named Nashville Scene‘s Best Original Drama 2014, has been nominated for the American Theatre Critics Association’s ATCA/Steinberg New Play Award.

Driver, who is Blackbird Theater’s artistic director, premiered Roger’s Version on May 30, 2014 at the Blackbird Theater in Nashville, Tenn.

“Stage version of Roger’s Version lauded”

“Preview of staged Roger’s Version applauds director and writer”

“Blackbird Theater brings “Roger’s Version” to the stage”

Paul Moran decides to sell The Other John Updike Archive

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 2.28.47 PMAt one time Paul Moran said he wasn’t interested in the money, but just wanted to find a good home for the Updike materials he famously scrounged from the author’s curbside in Beverly Farms.

That time has apparently passed. Now he’s wanting $250,000 for the contents of all the trash bags he hauled away, with the blog he used to showcase the items—The Other John Updike Archive—thrown in. Moran says that bids will be accepted until 5 p.m. on March 31, 2015.

It would have been nice to have those materials for The John Updike Childhood Home at 117 Philadelphia Avenue, but $250,000 is an insane amount of money . . . more than the Society paid for the house itself.

Still, if there’s an extremely wealthy person out there who has enough disposable income to spend it on disposed-of Updike items, the Society, a 501 c 3 non-profit, would be happy to be the beneficiary!

Here’s a link to the post announcing the sale, with detailed visuals of what we may never see again.


Knopf celebrates 100 years with downloadable calendar

knopf100Updike’s longtime publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, celebrates 100 years of publishing in 2015, and according to their website,

“Each week, we will tell you about the new books we are publishing in this anniversary year, as well as throw in a bit of nostalgia. We’ll remember books that were once upon a time published by Knopf in the particular month. We’ll share with you a bit of our personal history, i.e.: entertaining correspondence with authors, iconic dust jackets, remembrances by our editors and other members of the publishing team. We’ll dig up and share archival materials we think you’d like to see. In general, our Tumblr page (#Knopf100) for 2015 will be a running exhibition of the history and the present of the publishing house that is Alfred A. Knopf. Enjoy the ride.”

Among the “goodies” is a list of all their Pulitzer Prize winners (Updike, of course, won twice—for Rabbit Is Rich and Rabbit at Rest) and a downloadable literary calendar that you can access month by month. For January, appropriately, they begin with John Updike. Below is a cropped version of that page, sans calendar, with a photo by Irving L. Fisk. All rights are reserved.

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 6.27.06 PM

Updike fans in Portugal map his fictional geographies

Jorge Salgado Simoes writes with news from Camara Municipal de Torres Novas, Portugal:


Last October 4th, Torres Novas Municipal Library, in Portugal, developed a workshop on John Updike’s works, particularly on his Rabbit series and the fictional city of Brewer, included in the program of a wide seminar called “We, at the Libraries” (Nós, nas Bibliotecas) and focused on links and connections between public libraries, schools and other institutions.

The session “Fictional Geographies – Brewer and the John Updike territories” was developed by Jorge Salgado Simões, geographer and Director of Education and Cultural Affairs Department of Torres Novas Municipality, and participants were teachers and librarians, 12 people in total that got to know different topics on John Updike’s life and works and discussed Brewer’s urban dynamics, compared to global city changes during the last half of the twentieth century.

While listening to a playlist of music themes referred to by Harry Angstrom, participants were also invited to draw a possible map or representation from a passage of Rabbit Is Rich, concluding about the freedom we can find in fictional places and the different readings that they offer us.

Below is a photo of the group, and a representative drawing.


S38-MCA314100808540_0001 (2)