Reading Eagle shares 50-year old call for Rabbit, Run auditions

As part of Bill Uhrich’s “Flashback Friday,” the Reading Eagle yesterday published an article from May 17, 1969, announcing “‘Rabbit Run’ Auditions To Begin Here.”

“Bert Remsen, executive assistant to the producer and director of the Warner Bros. production of “Rabbit Run,” announced today that auditions for supporting roles in the film will be held here Monday through Wednesday.

“Remsen, who is in charge of casting said that he will begin auditioning Monday at 10:30 a.m. in the Reading Motor Inn.

“The filming of John Updike’s novel is presently under way at Warner Bros. Burbank, Calif., studios and the company will move to Reading on June 25 to begin location shooting.”

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Writer Jill McCorkle picks Updike story for Why I Like This Story

Jackson R. Bryer has edited a fun collection of essays by contemporary short story writers who pick a favorite story and explain why. Jill McCorkle chose John Updike’s short story “Flight.”

Here is the Boydell and Brewer catalog description for the volume, which will be published in June 2019:

Presents essays by leading short-story writers on their favorite American short stories and why they like them. It will send readers to the library or bookstore to read – or re-read – the stories selected.

On the assumption that John Updike was correct when he asserted, in a 1978 letter to Joyce Carol Oates, that “Nobody can read like a writer,” Why I Like This Story presents brief essays by forty-eight leading American writers on their favorite American short stories, explaining why they like them. The essays, which are personal, not scholarly, not only tell us much about the story selected, they also tell us a good deal about the author of the essay, about what elements of fiction he or she values.

Among the writers whose stories are discussed are such American masters as James, Melville, Hemingway, O’Connor, Fitzgerald, Porter, Carver, Wright, Updike, Bellow, Salinger, Malamud, and Welty; but the book also includes pieces on stories by canonical but lesser-known practitioners such as Andre Dubus, Ellen Glasgow, Kay Boyle, Delmore Schwartz, George Garrett, Elizabeth Tallent, William Goyen, Jerome Weidman, Peter Matthiessen, Grace Paley, William H. Gass, and Jamaica Kincaid, and relative newcomers such as Lorrie Moore, Kirstin Valdez Quade, Phil Klay, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and Edward P. Jones. Why I Like This Story will send readers to the library or bookstore to read or re-read the stories selected.

Among the contributors to the book are Julia Alvarez, Andrea Barrett, Richard Bausch, Ann Beattie, Andre Dubus, George Garrett, William H. Gass, Julia Glass, Doris Grumbach, Jane Hamilton, Jill McCorkle, Alice McDermott, Clarence Major, Howard Norman, Annie Proulx, Joan Silber, Elizabeth Spencer, and Mako Yoshikawa.

Editor Jackson R. Bryer is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Maryland.

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Literary America website includes John Updike Childhood Home

Listed among entries in the “Literary Destinations” category, John Updike appears on the Literary America website, which lists the three Pennsylvania locales (Shillington/Olinger, Plowville/Firetown, and Reading/Brewer) associated with him. The website, which promotes the book A Journey Through Literary America, is a good one to browse through and ultimately use as inspiration for literary pilgrimages.

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Michael Updike’s newest gravestone honors slave

Michael Updike posted on Facebook that it was a “great morning installing Lucy Foster’s gravestone. This project was initiated by Dr. Linda Meditz and her students at the Academy of Penguin Hall. They found, researched Lucy and designed her stone. I had the honor of interpreting their design and carving it. Many of the design elements are from shards of pottery found during an archaeological dig of her home. The epitaph reads “Born into slavery in Boston ~ Came to her freedom in Andover ~ Known by God and her community.”

“Students erect headstone in memory of freed Andover slave”

“All invited to remembrance for Andover slave Lucy Foster”

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Writer says Rabbit at Rest shows American life has slowed down

Writing for the Times Union (“Rabbit had quite the run”), Casey Seiler shares with readers his thoughts after reading Rabbit at Rest again. And his first paragraph summation of just a few of the topics Updike covers in the 1990 novel—Donald Trump, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Cosby, sexual misconduct, substance abuse, junk food—seem proof enough of the novel’s continued relevancy.

Seiler adds, “For Updike’s Rabbit, 1989 is a year of entropy in which his lifetime of unquenchable appetites presents him with a past-due bill. Reading it today, you get the strange sense that American life has slowed down in its own entropic way. Rabbit’s attitude toward women and racial minorities aren’t uniformly toxic, but they’re in no way woke—put him in a time machine and he’ll feel right at home on the average barstool in 2019. His feckless son grapples with a cocaine problem, but it could just as easily be opioids that help him escape his own early-midlife ennui. The sitcoms and politicians have different titles, but the push and pul among family, career, and the individual remain the same.

“For any reader who was alive and relatively adult [in 1989, the year the novel was set], the book is a remarkable catalog of life month-to-month, including everything from the aftermath of the Pan Am 107 bombing over Lockerbie to the opera buffa fall of televangelist Jim Bakker. As in the previous Rabbit books, Angstrom is a voracious consumer of the news, though his reflections on the meaning of daily events frequently spiral back to his own fascinations: that old standby sex, and the looming specter of his own mortality.

“All four books are written in the present tense, which adds wattage to the tiny electric charge delivered to the contemporary reader every time Updike mentions a cultural figure—like Trump or Oprah—who remain at or near the center of the national stage today. you feel like you’re in a time machine, which is of course what the best literature is.”

“There’s a certain comfort in this, of course: We tend to imagine that the present moment is either the summit or the pits, when in reality we occupy space that was previously occupied by some other striver, and will someday be taken up by another person trying to make it through the day and scrape up some grace. . . . The greatest thing separating Rabbit’s final months from today is the presence of the smartphone, which would no doubt have wrecked many of his most mesmerizing observations of the people and nature around our hero. The book contains some of the greatest descriptions of walks in American literature.”

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Papers on Updike presented at Russia conference

Two papers on John Updike were presented at the Fourth International Conference on “National Myth in Literature and Culture” hosted by Kazan Federal University in Russia, May 6-7.

Professor Olga Karasik’s paper, “Russia through the Eyes of American Author: John Updike’s ‘Rich in Russia,'” focused on the mythologizing of the image of the Soviet Union, and Ph.D. student Olga Shalagina’s paper, “The Image of Terrorist in John Updike’s Terrorist,” was devoted to the image of the terrorist as “other.”

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Participants sought for New Orleans panel on Updike short fiction

John Updike Society board member Robert Luscher is looking for Updike enthusiasts to participate in a panel at a September 5-7, 2019 symposium in New Orleans hosted by The Society for the Study of the American Short Story. Proposals are due by June 15, 2019. If interested, send a short abstract (100-200 words) on proposed topics to Robert Luscher (luscherr@unk) no later than June 7.

Further information on the conference, “The American Short Story: New Considerations” can be found in the official Call for Papers. The symposium will be held at the Hotel Monteleone, a historic 1886 hotel in the heart of the French Quarter located within a short walk of virtually all the literary locations. It’s one of the last great family-owned and operated hotels in New Orleans, now operated by a fifth generation. Some of the famous writers who stayed there include Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, Truman Capote, Anne Rice, Stephen Ambrose, and John Grisham.

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Writer ruminates on being caught between Updike and Moses

David Heddendorf’s “Updike or Moses?” was published in the Lent 2019 issue of The Cresset: A review of literature, the arts, and public affairs, in which he writes,

“Updike and [Muriel] Spark professed their Christian faith openly, but spent most of their time, by all accounts, with other famous authors. They wrote for The New Yorker, went to swanky parties, enjoyed the pastimes their wealth and celebrity allowed. They squeezed church into the margins of their glamorous lives, when they went at all. They discussed Christianity in interviews, and sometimes dealt with theological issues in their books, but faith didn’t help determine their circle of acquaintance the way it does for me and many people I know. They soared high above the tacky music, the trite poetry, the innocently insulting questions.”

He quotes Updike (“I enjoyed the anti-bohemian gesture of my deadpan churchgoing,” with its “less than half-hearted” emotional involvement) and summarizes,

“Moses and Updike frame the dilemma I’ve confronted all my life—a dilemma I suspect many Christian artists and intellectuals share. We can fulfill, like Updike, the demands of our art or research, keeping among like-minded peers and neglecting the fellowship of believers. Or we can identify with the people of God, many of whom don’t understand or even respect what we [writers] do. Achievement and gratification apart from the Christian community, or an embrace of that community while living with the mediocrity and a kind of exile—is this the choice we face?”

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Native Son adaptation gives props to Updike

In a reveiw published in The Atlantic, Hannah Giorgis pronounced the new HBO adaptation “An Arty but Superficial Take on Native Son.”

She writes that the production, directed by Rashid Johnson with a screenplay by Suzan-Lori Parks, “thankfully dispenses with some of the novel’s most graphic elements and moves its protagonist out of the 1930s and into contemporary Chicago. This Bigger, who more often goes by Big, is played by a graceful and dynamic Ashton Sanders (Moonlight). He skulks about the screen, and the South Side, in green hair and punkish attire: black high-water pants, black nail polish, a black leather jacket with OR AM I FREAKING OUT spray-painted across the back. Big’s got a lot of style. The same could be said for the film itself.”

However, Giorgis writes, “The film gestures at Big’s internal motivations, but doesn’t bear them out. Instead, we see him visibly uncomfortable in a soul-food joint with Mary (Margaret Qualley) and her white Communist boyfriend, Jan (Nick Robinson). We get classical-music interludes and shots of books, including Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, in Big’s room. (In the shot that features the Ellison book, Big places a gun on it.) We see him admire the Daltons’ library, and the camera lingers for a moment on the volumes—among them, John Updike’s Rabbit Redux, Robert Lowell’s Life Studies, and, naturally, Richard Wright’s Native Son. These signifiers function primarily as shortcuts for suggesting that Bigger is a different sort of black man without offering any context for why the norm itself exists.”

Related story: “Native Son Gets the James Baldwin Edit”

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Writer hopes West End production of Witches goes Broadway

Writing for Broadway Direct, Mark A. Robinson compiled a list of “West End Musicals We Hope Will Come to Broadway,” and had this to say about an Updike-based production:

The Witches of Eastwick—This one goes back even further than We Will Rock You, opening in the West End in 2000. The Witches of Eastwick premiered to generally good reviews and enjoyed a 15-month run, but never found its way to the Broadway stage. Dana P. Rowe provided the music and John Dempsey the book and lyrics, adapting the popular John Updike novel of the same name (and its subsequent film) to tell the story of three witches who are all in a relationship with the same devilish man. Only when they bring their powers together can they teach him the lesson he deserves. Below is a photo of the gossippy wives from the production.

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