For many years, the online resource for John Updike studies was The Centaurian, a website maintained by James Yerkes with the assistance of a great many people. Almost everything on that website was lost because of a server problem, but as we discover surviving pages we will add them at the bottom of this page as a resource for those interested in Updike studies. When possible, we will try to preserve the formatting of the original posts. Below are remarks, verbatim but condensed, from Prof. Yerkes’ open letter celebrating the 10th anniversary of The Centaurian:
“I did not know John Updike at all personally. Never had met him. But I had always been curious about the fact that he was a writer of stature who, of all things, read some theology (Barth, Tillich, Kierkegaard) and was recognized as a regular church-goer—taking his children regularly to Sunday School at the Congregational Church in Ipswich, wife Mary along or not.
“After a number of years while a doctoral student at the University of Chicago Divinity School I began some critical study of Updike’s writing in a Religion and Literature course taught by Nathan Scott. It was a concluding term research paper comparing Rabbit, Run and The Centaur. Voila, the website was born in nuce. But that was in 1966—thirty years before this site finally hit the net!
“[Updike] distrusted interviewers and would-be biographers and has remained thus over the years, only maybe in the last ten years easing up on the interview resistance quite a bit. So I thought it a wise courtesy to tell him I intended to put online a literary site named The Centaurian which I hoped would be a responsible resource especially for students and also helpful for general readers, and I enclosed in my letter a copy of the text for the biographical and literary chronology page—no longer so brief. To my great delight and surprise, he replied cordially and quickly by mail and made several corrections to the data I had asked him to review. So just at the start of the holiday season in 1996 this website [The Centaurian] was launched.
“I finally met John Updike personally in 1997 at Lafayette College in Pa. where he was doing a reading and a signing. I was teaching at Moravian College and so it took only a few minutes to travel over there to our sister Lehigh Valley Conference school for the event. He recognized my name from the earlier letter and so we had a very brief but pleasant exchange. It is important for me to make clear that John Updike has never been my intimate friend, but has always been friendly and kindly generous to me personally. He also is absolved of any responsibility for any contents posted over the years. As far as I know, he personally still does not have an online connection and does not review the work posted here. He is free from it and it is free from him—except, of course, without his marvelous literary productivity over the decades this website would not exist.
“The unsung patriots of this website commitment are too many to mention, of course, but obviously the two most prominent in my halting attempts to keep this thing going for ten years are David Lull and Larry Randen—neither of whom I have met personally even though our collaboration goes back many years. David as a librarian has just done yeoman’s work week after week sending me data. He just keeps me rolling along, sending me much more information than I can adequately put online or acknowledge. And Larry Randen has also contributed much content, with special emphasis on essays and reviews he has done for us all here.” [J. Yerkes, 11-19-06]
The John Updike Society and others bid an “unexpected farewell to The Centaurian“ in September, 2009 after a problem with the server wiped out most of the site. Below are links to some of the surviving pages: