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.”

Memoirist recalls father-Updike connection

Recently The New York Times reviewed The Critic’s Daughter by Priscilla Gilman, and one passage in particular will be of interest to fans of John Updike:

“As a critic, Gilman was brilliant; he made the light in your head brighten by a few lumens. He was also a hanging judge. The New York Times critic John Leonard described his style as ‘confrontation criticism.’ He often got as good as he gave. John Updike zinged him on several occasions and gave an unpleasant lawyer the name Gilman in his novel S. These barbs only refreshed Gilman’s zeal for battle.”

Gilman’s memoir, released last week, is described at Amazon as “an exquisitely rendered portrait of a unique father-daughter relationship and a moving memoir of family and identity.” Her father was writer, theater critic, and Yale School of Drama professor Richard Gilman, and her mother the renowned literary agent Lynn Nesbit. Their marriage ended when Priscilla was 10 years old. “The resulting cascade of disturbing relations—about her parents’ hollow marriage, her father’s double life and tortured sexual identity—fundamentally changed Priscilla’s perception of her father, as she attempted to protect him from the depression that had long shadowed him”

In Memoriam: Lawrence R. Broer

We are saddened to belatedly learn of the death of Lawrence R. Broer, who died at age 84 in his Tampa, Fla. home on Nov. 30, 2022. As his obituary notes, “He was an internationally acclaimed scholar of modern and postmodern literature,” and while he published extensively on Hemingway and Vonnegut, Updike society members know him from his edited collection of critical essays Rabbit Tales: Poetry and Politics in John Updike’s Novels (U. of Alabama,1998). Larry was also the author of Hemingway’s Spanish Tragedy (U. of Alabama, 1973), Sanity Plea: Schizophrenia in the Novels of Kurt Vonnegut (U. of Alabama, 1989), and Vonnegut & Hemingway: Writers at War (U. of South Carolina, 2011). With Gloria Holland he edited Hemingway and Women: Female Critics and the Female Voice (U. of Alabama, 2004), and charter Updike Society members will remember that Larry served on the very first society-sponsored panel at the 2009 American Literature Association Conference in Boston.

Larry taught at the University of South Florida from 1965-2003, when he retired. At USF he received the Theodore and Vanette Askounes-Ashford Distinguished Scholar Award and the Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching. He was also a Fulbright fellow, lecturing at the University of Paris in 1981 and 1984, and from 2018-22 he was a Fulbright Specialist.

His academic friends might not know this, but Larry was also athletic, taking pride in being able to quarterback the USF Faculty Football Team and participate in senior softball leagues into his 80s.

The society extends its sympathies to his partner, Béatrice Frouté De Domec, sons Joshua and Wesley Broer, and stepson Ashkahn Ardalan. Academia has lost a powerful voice and a generous mentor to up-and-coming scholars.

India-based journal to publish special Updike issue

Dossier of the Muses, an International Journal of Literary Studies, announced that Vol. 2:1 (July 2023) will be devoted to John Updike. The journal is based at Govt. College for Women M.A. Road, Srinigar Cluster University, Srinigar, J&K India, and the editor-in-chief, Prof. (Dr.) Ruhi Jan Kanth, is still accepting submissions until March 15, 2023, with revisions of accepted papers due April 30. Before submitting to editor@ijlsdom.com, read the updated submission guidelines at ijlsdom.com

Coming soon: John Updike Review Volume 9 Number 2

The John Updike Review Vol. 9: 2 (Winter 2023) is completed and will be distributed soon.

The issue features Victor Strandberg on “Updike’s Epitaph”; Sylvie Mathé, D. Quentin Miller, Peter J. Bailey, Robert Morace, and James Schiff on Self-Consciousness; plus essays from Bailey (“‘More Ironic Windows’: The Limits of Nostalgia in Updike’s My Father’s Tears), Donald J. Greiner (“U and I and Me: Rereading Nicholson Baker Reading Updike”), Haruki Takebe (“‘I’ll Get Urinary Impotence’: Updike’s Double Reference to Nabokov’s ‘Bluebeard in Ireland’.” Also included is a review by Greiner, “Edting Updike’s Revisions: Christopher Carduff and the Library of America.”

Editor Schiff reported that this issue of The John Updike Review is completed but delayed because of a printer paper shortage. Look for it in the hopefully near future.

The John Updike Review is published twice a year by the University of Cincinnati and the John Updike Society and is based at the University of Cincinnati, Department of English and Comparative Literature. The cover photo is of Updike at his office in Haven Hill (photographer unknown). The Review is included with membership in The John Updike Society. To join: https://blogs.iwu.edu/johnupdikesociety/join.

Sportswriter marks the anniversary of Updike’s passing

Today The Salem News published a column (“Updike remembered 14 years later”) by sportswriter Gary Larrabee.

“It’s hard to comprehend that it’s been 14 years since one of our most famous and accomplished North Shore residents died,” the column began. “John Updike, of 675 Hale St., Beverly, died on Jan. 27, 2009, at Kaplan Family Hospice House, also known as Care Dimensions, in Danvers, less than two months shy of his 77th birthday.”

“Lung cancer was the culprit. Danvers was never so famous than in becoming the dateline of Updike’s death, read and spoken in newscasts around the world.

“He left behind his wife, Martha, four children, a golf game with which he constantly struggled for many years at his beloved Myopia Hunt Club, and an epic literary bibliography that garnered the Pennsylvania native global fame.

“As much as he savored the opportunity over many years to play the revered Myopia layout, he also got a kick, for years, playing our region’s public nine-hole courses, like Cape Ann and Candlewood.”

Larrabee recalled Updike’s prodigious output and wrote, “This scorecard does not include his one hugely popular book on his ruminations of the game he loved, Golf Dreams, and essays he wrote for the magazines published for the 1988 U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline and the 2001 U.S. Senior Open at Salem Country Club.

“The vast majority of these works were created from his gifted imagination in his two North Shore hometowns, first Ipswich, where he wrote in a small upstairs rental space downtown, and later in his Beverly Farms home where he wordsmithed overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.”

Read the whole column.

from the Myopia Hunt Club website

New writers-on-writers collection features Oates on Updike

Aimed as a resource for creative writers and teachers of creative writing, Reaching Inside: 50 Acclaimed Authors on 100 Unforgettable Short Stories (David R. Godine, hardcover, 320 pages) will be published on April 25, 2023. The collection, edited by Andre Dubus III, features successful writers invited to talk about a pair of unforgettable stories in a brief essay. Joyce Carol Oates chose Ralph Ellison’s “Battle Royale” and John Updike’s “A & P.”

“John Updike’s brilliantly condensed, intensely lyric homage to the voice of another contemporary, J.D. Salinger, has long been the Updike story most anthologized, as it is likely the Updike story that is the most readily accessible to young readers,” Oates wrote.

“Ironically, or perhaps appropriately, in its very brevity and colloquial lyricism, ‘A & P’ isn’t characteristic of Updike’s short stories, which tend to be much longer, richer in detail and background information, slower moving and analytical; this is a story told exclusively from the perspective of a teenaged boy, in the boy’s mildly sardonic voice—’In walks these three girls in nothing but bathing suits.'”

Oates was the keynote speaker at the 2nd Biennial John Updike Society Conference at Suffolk University in Boston. Her novel, Blonde, was recently made into a movie.

John Updike Childhood Home docents are celebrated

The John Updike Society thanked the volunteer docents that keep the John Updike Childhood Home running every weekend by treating them to a dinner at Victor Emmanuel, a local club. The idea for the dinner came from director Maria Lester, who organized the fete with help from the home’s very first docent, Dave Ruoff. Docents make small museums “work,” and the society is grateful for ours: Charlie Adams, Jill Koestel, Ken Krawchuk, Maria McDonnell, Sara Peek, Travis Peek, Paige Sechler, Linda Sepeda, Liz Siegfried, Susan Weiser, and Ruoff and Lester, who also give tours. Welcome too to three brand-new docents: Bob Fleck, Nancy Kennedy, and Shpresa Ymeraj.

Congratulations to this season’s Updike house Christmas ornament contest winners

For the second year, The John Updike Childhood Home sponsored a Christmas ornament contest for area youths, with the winners prominently displayed on the Updike house tree in the parlor. In case you didn’t get to visit the museum when the tree was up, at least you can see this year’s winners. Congratulations to secondary school winner John Serrano, an 11th grader at Wyomissing Area School District and a welding student at Berks Career and Technology Center, for his stylized cut-out rabbit, and to elementary school winner Laasyda Sri, a 4th grader at Governor Mifflin Elementary School.

In Memoriam: Richard Davison

We were saddened to learn of the death of John Updike Society member Richard Davison, who passed away peacefully at his home on Jan. 19, 2023. He was 88. Richard was a charter member of the society and attended the first four conferences in Reading, Pa., Boston, and Columbia, S.C. with his wife, Dr. Milena Davison.

Those who didn’t know him often did a double-take because of his slight resemblance to Updike, and he took delight in telling the story of when he first met Updike. The latter immediately saw the resemblance and joked that it was like looking into a mirror. They decided that Richard, who was shorter than the author, was “John Updike, Jr.”

Because of the resemblance, Richard, a professor emeritus at the University of Delaware, offered to read from Updike’s work at the society’s first conference in Reading. He thought it might be fun, and it was. As the featured reader for the closing dinner at Jimmie Kramer’s Peanut Bar Restaurant in Reading, which Updike frequented when he was a junior working as a copy boy at the Reading Eagle across the street, Richard read from Rabbit, Run and Updike’s writings about Shillington and Reading. Always willing to help, Richard donated to support the society’s mission and also moderated a conference session in Boston. He was the embodiment of the “gentleman scholar,” who enjoyed talking about literature and was always gracious.

Richard and Milena at the 4th Biennial JUS Conference in South Carolina

In addition to his being active in the Updike society, the Legacy obituary noted that Davison was a past president of the Frank Norris Society and also a member of the Hemingway and Fitzgerald societies. He published on a wide range of authors, including Shakespeare, Hawthorne, Melville, Whitman, Stephen Crane, Hart Crane, Fitzgerald, Robert Penn Warren, Steinbeck, Albee, Salinger, and Hemingway. A passionate theater-goer as well, he co-edited two books on theater with Jackson Bryer and shared his passions with students. He was honored in 2001 with the University of Delaware College of Arts and Science Teaching Award.

During a distinguished career Richard was also a visiting professor at Washington College and at universities in Essen and Cologne, Germany. Additionally, he directed the English Graduate Program at Seattle University during his tenure there, and in 1966 he hosted 39 episodes of a TV series on Literature and Life. The two naturally went together for Richard, and the Updike Society is richer for his having been a member. He will be missed, and we offer our deepest condolences to Milena and the couple’s three children and one grandchild.

Society members at the 3rd Biennial Conference pose in front of the Updikes’ Plowville farmhouse. Richard and Milena Davison are in the back row, third and fourth from the left.