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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: John Updike, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 12 of 12
1. An Interview with the Author, Part Four

My endless interrogation of myself continues... What keeps you awake at night? Everything that can wait until tomorrow. When were you happiest? When I realized that a congenial monotony is the best anyone can hope for. I'm not sure how old I was or what I was doing — perhaps I was 13 and hiking [...]

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2. Banned Book Trading Cards

To celebrate the 30th annual Banned Books Week, one library in Kansas has gotten artistic. The Lawrence Public Library has created the Banned Books Trading Cards project, a series of drawings inspired by banned books and authors created by local artists.

Each trading card is inspired by a banned book or author. There is one for each day of the week.  The week kicked off with an homage to George Orwell‘s Animal Farm (pictured right) created by artist Barry Fitzgerald, followed by an homage to Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, drawn by Kent Smith. Today’s card by an artist known as Webmocker, celebrates John Updike’s Rabbit, Run.

Here is the artist’s statement: “Burning and otherwise destroying books being a favorite activity of censors, deconstruction seemed an appropriate approach to this tattered (literally falling apart as I read it) copy of Rabbit, Run.  Coincidentally, this book was purchased at the Friends of the Lawrence Public Library book sale.”

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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3. The Similarity Between Reading and Baseball

I have written exactly one piece of fan mail in my life, to the baseball writer, Roger Angell. I’m sorry, that tag does him a disservice; Angell is a writer, period, a great one, a crafter of sublime sentences, a keen observer, a man who feels things and captures living moments. His writing goes deep into baseball and beyond it. I think Angell’s more than a great writer; I suspect he’s a great man.

I had written Six Innings and wanted him, an important stranger, to have a copy of my beautiful book. I wanted him to love it, of course, to see me as a fellow traveler, but writers don’t have much say over how the world responds. You release the work into the wild and hope it finds food, shelter, a home, and thrives.

Mr. Angell wrote a kind, handwritten letter in return.

For some reason, lately I’d been thinking about “the ideal reader,” and determined, perhaps cleverly, that my ideal reader would be someone who wasn’t afraid of being bored. That had been my worry of late, because so many children’s books these days are high concept and plot-driven, because we hear over and over again that boys don’t read, and if they do open a book they want wall-to-wall action. And I guess I sometimes fret that I don’t deliver that kind of pleasure. In truth, I only infrequently read that kind of book. So, yes, please, if I may order one to go, I’d like a reader who will hang with me during the slow parts.

And I heard in that an echo. And realized, once again, that the notion was not entirely my own. Authentic, yes; original, not exactly.

I remembered something I heard Mr. Angell say at a public reading on March 1, 1989, at Peter Norton Symphony Space in New York. The program was a special evening in Selected Shorts history, created by Roger Angell along with his friend, A Bartlett Giamatti, who was soon to assume his duties as Commissioner of Baseball. I remember the reading vividly, the great selections and talented readers. Years later I tracked down the CD compilation and recommend it, highly. Some of my favorite stories from that night include John Updike’s, “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu,” W.P. Kinsella’s “The Thrill of the Grass,” T.C. Boyle’s hilarious “The Hector Quesadilla Story,” and Giamatti’s classic, “The Green Fields of the Mind.”

I recalled, most especially, some opening remarks made by Angell. So I got out the CD, listened and listened again while scribbling on a yellow legal pad, until I could transcribe the brief exchange I’d remembered. As far as I know, there isn’t a transcription available on the net, so here you have that one brief moment — an exchange that struck me, and has stuck with me, for more than 20 years. Angell makes a simple comparision, doesn’t extend it much, doesn’t labor over it, gets in and out, yet it made me laugh at the time, an

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4. Random House to Reissue Updike Works to Mark His Birthday

John Updike, who died in 2009, would have been 80 on March 18.

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5. John Updike’s Childhood Home to Be Museum

The John Updike Society has finalized a contract to purchase John Updike‘s home for $200,000.

Located in the Pennsylvania town of Shillington, Updike lived in the home for thirteen years as a child. John Updike Society president James Plath announced that the organization plans to make the house a historic site and convert it into an operational museum.

Here’s more from Reading Eagle: “Out of respect for the residential neighborhood, Plath said, he expects the historic site to be open only by appointment and not list regular hours. Plath said he has researched the operations of similar historic sites that were once authors’ homes, including the Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians in Columbus, Ga., and the Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum in Montgomery, Ala.”


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6. John Updike’s Childhood Home to Be Museum

The John Updike Society has finalized a contract to purchase John Updike‘s home for $200,000.

Located in the Pennsylvania town of Shillington, Updike lived in the home for thirteen years as a child. John Updike Society president James Plath announced that the organization plans to make the house a historic site and convert it into an operational museum.

Here’s more from Reading Eagle: “Out of respect for the residential neighborhood, Plath said, he expects the historic site to be open only by appointment and not list regular hours. Plath said he has researched the operations of similar historic sites that were once authors’ homes, including the Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians in Columbus, Ga., and the Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum in Montgomery, Ala.”


New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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7. So I’m having my own little Kanye West “George Bus...

So I’m having my own little Kanye West “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” moment over on the New York Times’ book blog.

As regular readers know, I am a regular, and frequently disgruntled, reader of the New York Times Book Review. I'll typically spend a part of each Saturday morning totting up the number of women who get reviewed, or who get to write reviews, muttering things like, “Three pages on the new Ian McEwan? That’s almost as long as the freakin’ book!” and “I can’t believe the only coverage The Thirteenth Tale is getting is a one-liner about how the author’s last name sounds like another author’s last name,” and “Three weeks without a piece by, or about, or even mentioning Gary Shteyngart? How can I go on?”

Things started on Tuesday TBR senior editor Dwight Garner posted a roundup of what other newspapers were reviewing: Michael Chabon, Woody Allen, your typical assortment of Living Dead White Men who the Times routinely covers to death and beyond, leavened with a review of Tina Brown’s take on the ten-years-dead Diana.

I posted a comment pointing out that it was interesting that the Times itself has reviewed all of those titles (in Chabon and Brown’s cases, twice), and wondered whether book review editors the world over got some kind of top-secret list as to which books to write about each week.

Garner replied and said that Book Review czar Sam Tanenhaus had addressed the question of who gets reviewed in the TBR during an email Q and A with readers

I responded that I’d read the Q and A, and that it didn’t answer my question: telling us the number of ‘previewers’ it takes to plow through the week’s advance copies and give their thumbs-up or thumbs-down doesn’t tell us much – or, really, anything -- about what goes into their decisions.

And some of those decisions are nothing less than mystifying.

There are entire genres that the Times’ editors ignore. They run round-ups of mystery and sci-fi and horror, but they never cover romance. On the infrequent occasions when they deign to notice chick lit, they only notice roman a clefs that take place in New York City and/or the publishing world, and typically feature a thinly-veiled but completely recognizable villainess (Anna Wintour, Judith Regan, Rosie O’Donnell).

Why no romance? Why only one kind of chick lit? Why review the new Michael Chabon in the daily paper, then again on Sunday? Why tell romance readers that they can get their fix elsewhere, while lavishing two reviews upon Tina Brown, whose book has already been excerpted in Vanity Fair, written up in Newsweek, and discussed on The Today Show and Good Morning America? Why review a memoir about anal sex, while refusing to even mention the vast majority of big bestsellers?

You can follow the thread here. Some of my questions got answered, and some, not so much. (I’m the one posting as ‘Jen.’ Yes, I am that creative). Then you can head over to Smart Bitches, Trashy Books as they answer the question, Where is the love?

I’m enjoying Garner's blog, and I appreciate his willingness to engage with not-entirely-satisfied readers.

But I would still be thrilled to see an editor pull back the curtain and spend a Monday morning going through Sunday’s Book Review, choosing examples to explain how books and reviewers got picked and paired.

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8. John Updike on Art, America, and the “Clarity of Things”

Washington D.C. loves the chance to remind everyone that it’s not just a political town. Once a year, D.C.’s literati get dressed up, bring on the President’s own Marine Corps Band, and silence their Blackberrys for an hour or so to listen intently to the Annual Jefferson Lecture sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

And listen they did, to none other than Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist, short story writer, poet, internationally-known author and critic John Updike. Updike’s lecture entitled “The Clarity of Things” which examined the connection between America’s art and its ideas by posing the question, “What is American about American art?” Using complementary images found in the Endowment’s new Picturing America initiative – a project which brings great American art to schools and public libraries to help citizens learn about the people, events, and ideas that have shaped national history – Updike guided the audience on a whirlwind, personalized tour of some of the greats in the American pantheon. Discussing the “painterly” (or in some cases, more “liney”) techniques of artists such as John Singleton Copley, Winslow Homer, Gilbert Stuart, and a wide array of others, the 76-year old Updike proved that his discerning eye — not to mention his opinions — are as sharp as ever.

I’m not sure I came away with a better sense of clarity for myself regarding the question he posed regarding Americanism in art, but one thing is for sure — I’d love to have Updike as my guide the next time I go to the National Gallery.

What do you say, John – is it a date?

P.S. For more info about the 37th Annual Jefferson Lecture, you can check out the NEH Press Release or this article about the author.

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9. John Updike, RIP

John Updike passed away today.

I haven't read any of his stuff. I'm afraid to. When I was in 6th grade, Updike was doing convocation at Lawrence University, located mere blocks from my elementary school, so the talented and gifted teacher walked us all down to hear him speak. He read a piece in 2nd person, about a middle aged man on a road trip with his family and the cute waitress when they stop for dinner. Since that day, I have NEVER struggled with what 2nd person narrative is.

He also read from one of the Rabbit books (which, at the time, I confused with Watership Down, so I was momentarily confused when he started reading not about Rabbits on a ship, but about neighbors having sex on a pile of laundry.) Let's just say that scene he read to us had a great effect on a bunch of socially awkward 6th graders. It was also an interesting window into the odd world of adults. The adult books I read at the time (and I did read quite a few) didn't deal with the angst of middle age and suburbia. I wasn't entirely convinced that adults had feelings and personal lives at that point.

Hearing Updike read that one scene changed my life in subtle ways, and is an event that has stuck with me greatly, hence my desire, but also great fear, to read the Rabbit books for myself. What if they're not as good as I remember? What if they won't hold the same impact now that I am an adult? Should they just stay in my memory in that huge chapel with streaming sunlight?

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10. John Updike and the Beauty of the Book

It is often only after dinner has been cooked and all the spices put away that I travel back into my office to learn how the rest of the world has fared throughout the day. So that I did not know until late last night about the passing of John Updike. It took my breath away. It seemed wrong, not yet his time, for how Updike still gleams in his poignant October interview with Sam Tannenhaus at the New York Times, how gloriously that white hair still shines. Even as Updike suggests that perhaps it is time to step away from the writerly task. Even as he confesses the "stickiness" that attends the writing of an historical novel. Even as he notes the prevailing glory and glamor of youth.

It feels personal with me and John Updike. Not because I've loved or even read all 61 of his books, but because he always represented to me the potential elegance of the writerly self. In 1998, when I knew next to nothing about books but somehow found myself seated at the National Book Awards, it was Updike who spoke that night about the inherent physical beauty of books and type. I looked at the enterprise differently after that. I never opened another book without feeling its particular weight or noting the width of its margins or the roundness or sharpness of its letters "b," "w," "a."

So may the great man of letters rest in peace. In his own work, and in the reviews he wrote about the work of others, he had and has so much to teach.

7 Comments on John Updike and the Beauty of the Book, last added: 1/29/2009
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11. Rabbits to Zombies

Thank you, Annette Leal Mattern, for filling in the past four weeks. Her health-oriented articles were informative and timely; I appreciate that she shared her observations and advice with La Bloga's readers. Hey, RudyG - did you see what she had to say about smoking?

I've been doing a lot of reading and a bit of writing - not as much writing as I should but that's always the case. I hope to soon have some good news about future publications; stay tuned, as they say. One reading project I took up is to read John Updike's Rabbit novels, in order. Years ago I read Rabbit Redux - Updike's recent passing got me to thinking that this might be a good time to catch up on all four Rabbit books. I have to say that Rabbit, Run was a tough book for me to get into but now that I am finally finding a handle on Rabbit's puzzling personality, at least as much as I can in 90 pages, the book is reading quicker. I'm a very slow reader so this particular project could take me months. Where does Updike stand these days in the pantheon of twentieth century North American writers? Is he regarded as having more substance than John O'Hara or more staying power and diversity than John Cheever, but not on the same level as F. Scott Fitzgerald? Or is the jury still out?

Meanwhile ...

(Taken from the Spring 2009 Catalog)

The River Flows North
Graciela Limón

March 31, 2009

In Sonora, a group of immigrants circles around a coyote, Leonardo Cerda, who will—for a price—lead them across the treacherous desert to the United States. Fearful that Cerda may be one of those who will collect their money up front and then leave them stranded to die, the travelers ultimately are forced to put their trust in him and begin the dangerous crossing to a new life. Afraid even of each other, they initially avoid eye contact or conversation. But as the three-day passage across the blistering landscape progresses, the fight to survive the grueling trip ensures that their lives—and deaths—are linked forever.

While trudging along, placing one exhausted foot in front of the other, the travelers each remember their lives and the reasons they have been forced to abandon their land, homes and loved ones. Among the immigrants is Menda Fuentes, a salvadoreña, the only member of her family to survive a massacre during her country’s civil war. Then there is Julio Escalante and his young grandson Manuelito, who pay the full fee even though they plan to go only halfway. By their side is Encarnación Padilla, an ancient indigenous woman who has survived ostracism and her involvement in the Zapatista uprising. Next to her walk Nicanor and Borrego Osuna, two brothers who suffer the ultimate indignity just to make it to the United States. Finally, there is Armando Guerrero, shifty, suspicious-looking, and clearly different from the rest because of his fancy clothes as well as the mysterious bag to which he clings.

In addition to confronting their own internal demons, they must also face the dangers that they encounter on the trail: poisonous snakes, debilitating dehydration and exhaustion, and a ferocious sandstorm that tears the group apart. This riveting novel explores the lives behind the news stories and confirms Limón’s status as one of the country’s premiere Latinas writing about issues that affect us all.

Survival Supervivencia
Miguel Algarin
March 31, 2009

This anthology of searing poetry and prose collects the famed Nuyorican's writings from the past 35 years

"Don’t believe the deadly game," Miguel Algarin warns the elderly black Puerto Rican sitting in a park in Old San Juan, "of Northern cities paved with gold and plenty / don’t believe the fetching dream / of life improvement in New York / the only thing you’ll find in Boston / is a soft leather shoe up your ass."

In this affecting collection of poetry and prose, Nuyorican poet Miguel Algarin crafts beautifully angry, sad pieces about injustice and loss. While warning his compatriots about the unreality of the American Dream, he acknowledges that "we are the pistons that / move the roughage through Uncle / Sam’s intestines, we keep the flow / of New York happening / we are its muscles."

Algarin’s poems covering his long career give voice to the disenfranchised—the junkie, the HIV inflicted, the poverty stricken—and survival is a recurring theme. In the essay "Nuyorican Language," which was originally published in 1975, he argues that for the New York Puerto Rican, there are three survival possibilities: to work hard for little money all your life and remain in eternal debt; to live life by taking risks of all types, including killing, cheating and stealing; and to create alternative behavioral habits. The Nuyorican poet, he says, must create a new language, "A new day needs a new language or else the day becomes a repetition of yesterday."

While many of the poems focus on the Puerto Rican experience in New York, others touch on universal experiences such as the death of friends and the ephemeral nature of life. "So what if you’re dead, / I’m here, you’re gone, / and I’m left alone / to watch how time betrays, / and we die slow / so very slow." And he turns his sharp gaze on events around the world, including the fights between England and Argentina for the Falkland Islands, Israel and Palestine for the Holy Land.

With an introduction by Ernesto Quiñonez, author of the acclaimed novel Bodega Dreams, this collection takes the reader through an intimate, autobiographical journey of one of the country’s leading Nuyorican writers and intellectuals.

Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery
Edited by Sarah Cortez and Liz Martínez
Introduction by Ralph E. Rodriguez, Ph.D
March 31, 2009

Of course I have to mention this anthology - again. And expect more from me dealing with this book and the contributors - I'm lining up at least one intriguing interview and hope to have more to share. For now, here's a complete list of the authors: Mario Acevedo, Lucha Corpi, Sarah Cortez, Carolina García-Aguilera, Alicia Gaspar de Alba, Carlos Hernandez, Rolando Hinojosa-Smith, Bertha Jackson, John Lantigua, Art Muñoz, R. Narvaez, L.M. Quinn, A.E. Roman, Manuel Ramos, S. Ramos O'Briant, Steven Torres, Sergio Troncoso.


NALAC awarded over $143,000 to 22 Latino artists and 17 Latino arts and culture organizations for the 2008-2009 cycle of the NALAC Fund for the Arts (NFA). The NALAC Fund for the Arts (NFA), is the only national arts fund specifically for Latino artists and arts organizations in the United States. READ MORE

The 2008-2009 NFA Grantees Are:

Artists: Brent Beltrán, Anna De Orbegoso, Nicolas Dumit Estevez, Nicole Elmer, Michael John Garces, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Sandra Guardado, Eren McGinnis, Esau Melendez, Abinadi Meza, Elisha Miranda, Michelle Ortiz, Sandra Pena Sarmiento, Laura Perez, Marlene Ramirez Cancio, Omar G. Ramirez, Ruben Salazar, Minerva Tapia, Juana Valdes, Vito Jesus Valdez, and Elio Villafranca

Organizations: Arte, Inc., Association of Hispanic Arts, Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance, Calpulli Mexican Dance Co., Conjunto Heritage Taller, El Centro Su Teatro, Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, Fiesta DC, La Casa de la Raza, MACLA/Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana, The Providence Latin American Film Festival, Santa Cecilia Orchestra, Serie Project, Talento Bilingüe de Houston, Taller Puertorriqueño, Inc., Teatro IATI, and Teatro Vision.


Mario Acevedo reads from and signs his latest Felix Gomez novel, Jailbait Zombie, on March 9, 2009, at 7:30 PM at the Colfax Avenue Tattered Cover, Denver. Acevedo is a former infantry and aviation officer, engineer, art teacher to incarcerated felons, and the bestselling author of The Nymphos of Rocky Flats, X-Rated Bloodsuckers, and The Undead Kama Sutra. In Jailbait Zombie (HarperCollins) vampire detective Gomez coming face-to-face with the worst sort of undead. To stop a ravenous army of zombies, the detective must team up with a precocious teen with clairvoyant powers whose cooperation comes at a price: she won't help unless Felix makes her a vampire - if the zombies don't get her first.

Mario's continuing signing schedule so far is:

The Paranormal Bender Tour with fantasy authors Mario Acevedo, Caitlin Kittredge, Mark Henry,
and Cherie Priest:

Clark County Library, Jewel Box Theater
Las Vegas, NV
March 11, 2009. 7 PM
Mysterious Galaxy
San Diego, CA
March 13, 2009. 7 PM
Dark Delicacies
Burbank, CA
March 14, 2009. 2 PM
Borderlands Books
San Francisco, CA
March 15, 2009. 7 PM
Powell's Books
Beaverton, OR
March 16, 2009. 7 PM

To get you in the right mood for an evening with Mario here's his animated trailer for his new book featuring motorcycle-riding Legos, directed and animated by Emiliano Acevedo.


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12. The Rose Room and a National Book Awards Memory

This past weekend we took refuge, for a spell, inside the New York Public Library, a place I always try to visit whenever I come to New York.

As we stood beneath this Rose Room sky, I recalled, as I always do, my first trip to that building, which happened in the company of my first editor, Alane Salierno Mason. Alane bought three of my books, not just the first, and she brought to each one a rigorous, unyielding eye. Alane cares very much about the state of books, not just in this country, but in the world.

I wrote something about that Rose Room in 1998, in the wake of my experience at the National Book Awards and published it then. Today, in between a spate of client projects, I was feeling melancholy and looked at that old essay again:

Hours before the 49th National Book Awards ceremony got under way, Alane Salierno Mason, my literary editor, remembered a room I had to see; we went. A lion, an edifice, a swoop of stairs, a room: big as a city block, and skied with permanent weather. There were six-hundred pound tables and a constellation of polished lamps, people enough for a subway station, though this was the New York Public Library, the newly splendoured Rose Reading Room. I thought I heard a holy hush. I felt drawn out, thrown out of kilter by the hundreds hunkered down with books.

A while later, John Updike took the stage at the Marriott Marquis to accept the 1998 award for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. His voice had a quiet, avuncular appeal, and in that darkened room he stepped his audience back into the library of his youth, the glamor of a typeface, the beauty of a book “in proportion to the human hand.” There were stacks of books on every table, images of books hung like pendants on the walls. There were authors in the room, editors, publishers, agents, reviewers, there were readers, and we understood why we had come.

The media, the next day and for days to come, would write of dark horses, battlefields, upset victories, dueling styles. They would tally winners and losers as if bookmaking were a gamble or a sport. They would declaim the event because their heroes had not been crowned, because somehow they had not deduced the final outcome. But what too many lost in their rush for the headline was the reality of what that evening was: a celebration of books. A communion of stories. A tribute to the humanity of words.

What I’ll remember is not so much who won, but what was said. What I’ll remember is how Gerald Stern, upon accepting the poetry honor, venerated his fellow poets: individually, distinctively, with elemental and essential grace. I’ll remember how Louis Sachar, winning for Young People’s Literature, did the same, and how Alice McDermott, one of the most exquisite, time-proven novelists in the land, hadn’t the ego to believe her name was called. I’ll remember the dignity of that old-fashioned tribe, the integrity of the jurors, the company I was keeping—my husband, my parents, my brother, the W.W. Norton team, my agent, Amy Rennert. I’ll remember how it felt to be sitting there amongst the others all because I’d been given the certain exceptional privilege of publishing a little book about love.

Why do we read? Why do we write? For me, the answer made itself known some 24 hours prior to the ceremony, when t

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