Spring, Summer, Fall and Sissman


Sunday in Boston

Fall 1961


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Long Reads by Esquire: Long Reads of the Week by Sam Parker

Longreads: The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Texas Monthly: Finding John Updike (and Taking his Trash)

New York Times: Texas Man Treasures Finds in Updike’s Trash

The Atlantic: The Man Who Made Off With John Updike’s Trash

Boston Public Radio: Margery Eagan and Jim Braudy, Alex Beam on the Other John Updike Archive

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On Paying Attention



JU in Boat




The picture shows John Updike wearing these shorts and this watch. Why would Updike save these shorts and this cheap watch from this photograph? Vanity? I doubt it. Historical relevance? Not really. This is hardly the iconic dress from Gone With The Wind that I saw on display at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin a couple of weeks back when I gave Ian McKuen Updike’s glasses and his 1951 Harvard Lampoon.  I think he kept these things as they were part of HisStory. John Updike was no Buddhist. He sought not to transcend his world but to revere it. This is your life on planet earth. Look past the horror, past the heart of darkness toward the absolute miracle of your existence. At least try. I think that is what he was always telling us. In taking his communion he focused upon the miracle of simple bread, not whether or not it was gluten free.


September 6, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Paul, I too am grateful you preserved the materials in JU’s ” throw-away trash.” You have used it online responsibly, I think. My guess is that many other Updike “scholars” will be furious you regularly did that. I am not. I am grateful we have some of the materials which help us understand JU in more indirect ways. So take the scorn some will show and recognize the multiple motivations which are behind it.

Neither his wife nor likely some of JU’s children will currently be pleased, I feel sure. But on longer time reflection they may nonetheless all see the historical and critical value of these rescued unattended throw-aways. I know you will try to make them public responsibly and, while it is not something I would have recommended nor sanctioned ahead of time, life is such that unintended consequences often tell us helpfully more than we expected about life and people we love or hate, indeed more of what we really truthfully need to know about those other persons or life situations to write accurate history.

Now, at 81, I know I had my say about JU in The Centaurian and have left all of it behind–twelve years of really daily hard work publishing equally his critics and admirers. The many years of The Centaurian’s daily updated records were all instantly lost when one day in 2009 the professional internet site source I rented malfunctioned and instantaneously electronically collapsed. Totally. Poof! They folded their online business and simply disappeared. No other information was provided to me.
Nonetheless, over the twelve years of that site editing I hope I helped readers better comprehend JU and his critics, as well as his admirers. JU was not always pleased with what I published online and told me so, firmly but candidly.

Over the years we also frequently corresponded warmly by personal letters and postcards and those materials are now archived at Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran College in St. Peter, Minnesota. They help us understand the depth and quality of Updike as a writer of great literature. I believe the materials in your “JU trash archive,” responsibly presented, will do the same over time. I am grateful the material is in such responsible hands as yours.

Most cordially as always,
James Yerkes
Founder and Former Editor of The Centaurian, “A John Updike Website”


“What a spirit feeling spinning round my head, makes me feel glad that I’m not dead”



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Trash and Bumfodder

SCN_0064 SCN_0063 SCN_0065

The muddled and inconsequent surface of things now and then parts to yield us a gift. In my boyhood I had the impression of being surrounded by an incoherent generosity, of—to quote a barefaced reminiscence I once wrote—a quiet but tireless goodness that things at rest, like a [ brick wall or a small stone, seem to affirm. A wordless reassurance these things are pressing to give. An hallucination? To transcribe middleness with all its grits, bumps, and anonymities, in its fullness of satisfaction and mystery: is it possible or, in view of the suffering that violently colors the periphery and that at all moments threatens to move into the center, worth doing? Possibly not; but the horse-chestnut trees, the telephone poles, the porches, the green hedges recede to a calm point that in my subjective geography is still the center of the world.

[from the “Foreward” to OLINGER STORIES, Vintage Books, 1964




Bryan Ferry Is Touring. On the set list is Robert Palmer’s Johnny and Mary. Very Updikean

Roxy Redux:

“I was backstage at the Orpheum in Boston, standing on one side of the stage door across from Bryan Ferry during Roxy Music’s Manifesto Tour.

WBCN DJ Mark Parento was attempting to get Bryan to recall a past intersection, but Ferry was politely distracted as the music swelled for his grand entrance. I coveted Ferry’s leather suit jacket. After the show I discovered a carton of Dunhill cigarettes and some poetry books left behind by the singer in his haste to escape ardent fans.  The Dunhills were lovingly inscribed:  “To Bryan Ferry…” by Boston Phoenix writer Robert Polito. Not quite the same as the iconic leather jacket. Still, I felt I was infusing myself with Ferry’s “serpentine sleekness” with every cigarette.”  Paul Moran

When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical may be madness. To surrender dreams, this may be madness. To seek treasures where there is only trash…Too much sanity may be madness, and maddest of all is to see life as it is and not as it should be.

Miguel De Cervantes, Don Quixote de la Mancha

“Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or better.” – John Updike

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The Duality Of Man

wife as critic 2


Yikes! An indelicate passage By JU gets a bad review from his wife?





“I’m willing to show good taste, if I can, in somebody else’s living room, but our reading life is too short for a writer to be in any way polite. Since his words enter into another’s brain in silence and intimacy, he should be as honest and explicit as we are with ourselves.”
John Updike


Of marriage and mortality


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Crystal Balls

lampoon cover



lampoon cartoon

Updike was frequently criticized for writing very well about nothing much as we see here in this interview in the Paris Review with Gore Vidal. Updike did the beautiful cover art for this issue of the Harvard Lampoon in 1954 and what is contained inside demonstrates an astonishing awareness of his literary mission and of the critics to come. John Updike was a prodigy and the following cartoon he drew foretells his own future impeccably. Take that Adam Begley!

– Paul Moran


The Paris Review

Gore Vidal, The Art of Fiction No. 50

Interviewed by Gerald Clarke


How about some of the younger writers? What do you think of John Updike, for example?


He writes so well that I wish he could attract my interest. I like his prose, and disagree with Mailer, who thinks it bad. Mailer said it was the kind of bad writing that people who don’t know much about writing think is good. It is an observation that I understand but don’t think applies to Updike. With me the problem is that he doesn’t write about anything that interests me. I am not concerned with middle-class suburban couples. On the other hand, I’m not concerned with adultery in the French provinces either. Yet Flaubert commands my attention. I don’t know why Updike doesn’t. Perhaps my fault.

As you can see Updike’s critics said that he had little to say but that he said it very well.

What is amazing is that WAS (in a good way), his plan all along, as you can see here in this cartoon by Updike in a 1954 issue of the Harvard Lampoon.

That is the definition of prodigy.


I presented this issue to Ian McEwan along with a pair of Updike’s reading glasses at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin Tx


Updike’s glasses and Lampoon near water glass



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“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons”-T.S. EliotSCN_0035

“The passage of my life is measured out in shirts”-Brian Eno

“Life is measured out in moments”-Woodbridge wine commercial

“The passage of my life is measured out in checks”







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First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage…

“The only thing Pope Francis could do better is to be Jewish–like Jesus”-Erica Jong


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If Updike Wrote Batman

images-18 images-15 images-16 images-14

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In Every Dream Home A Heartache

Page 6affair final

You think this is the end of the letter? You think Updike gets off that easy?  No more talk about his other lovers? The PS is a killer!


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Both Ends Burning

Page 5affair 5

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Page 4affair 4


Updike’s lover had too many martinis and let him know that she knows that a mutual friend of theirs is/was also his lover. But it’s ok…..really.

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These Foolish Things



Page 3the affair 3


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Will you still love me tomorrow?




Page 2




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And In The Beginning…



Page 1

July 13, 1972 Final Night of the Democratic National Convention




“Johnny And Mary”

Johnny’s always running around
Trying to find certainty
He needs all the world to confirm
That he ain’t lonely
Mary counts the walls
Knows he tires easilyJohnny thinks the world would be right
If it could buy truth from him
Mary says he changes his mind
More than a woman
But she made her bed
Even when the chance was slimJohnny says he’s willing to learn
When he decides he’s a fool
Johnny says he’ll live anywhere
When he earns time to
Mary combs her hair
Says she should be used to itMary always hedges her bets
She never knows what to think
She says that he still acts like he’s
Being discovered
Scared that he’ll be caught
Without a second thought
Running around

Johnny feels he’s wasting his breath
Trying to talk sense to her
Mary says he’s lacking a real
Sense of proportion
So she combs her hair
Knows he tires easily

Johnny’s always running around
Trying to find certainty
He needs all the world to confirm
That he ain’t lonely
Mary counts the walls
Says she should be used to it

Johnny’s always running around
Running around

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Couples: The story your about to read is true…

the affair


Many  years later he still appears to to be intrigued by novel ideas (or ideas for a novel?)


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Celestial Seasonings (on being JUish)


Updike found a nuance in the New Testament that he saw as sorely lacking in the Old. His theology made explicit in his last days may be responsible for the embargo of his final work (until2029) on the foundations of Christianity and the militant theology of Saint Paul (whom he concluded “got it right”).

Updike annoyed “covenanted Jew” and author Cynthia Ozick by implying that Judaism (in Kafka’s case) might be admirably transcended. The difference between the Lord’s treatment of the woman at the well in the New Testament and Lot’s wife in the Old Testament speaks volumes.

The former was treated as a pillar of her community, the latter would become a  pillar of salt.  This begs a difficult question. Is Faith by it’s very nature…exclusive? Can beliefs that are not merely divergent but polar opposite be reconciled in our deepest natures? Here we plead confusion or often present allegorical dilution.

As Updike put it “To be [judged] sane, is to a great extent to be sociable”


 From the heartbreak of psoriasis to Lancome skin care model

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Here’s looking up your old address

address book inside 2address book outside

Updike’s old address book with child’s (?) writing: “I want to go back to Ipswich” and “I miss you 4 Highland Ave Ipswich Mass. The ink isn’t Updike’s could the pencil be be his?


Check for Mother’s trust?



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Ex Pat Updike? Not bloody likely!



“Saying that cultural objects have value,” Brian Eno once wrote, “is like saying that telephones have conversations.” Nearly all the cultural objects we consume arrive wrapped in inherited opinion; our preferences are always, to some extent, someone else’s. Visitors to the “Mona Lisa” know they are about to visit the greatest work of art ever and come away appropriately awed—or let down. An audience at a performance of “Hamlet” know it is regarded as a work of genius, so that is what they mostly see. Watts even calls the pre-eminence of Shakespeare a “historical fluke”.

From INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, May/June 2014


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Cape Fear Redux

updike photo finish




san quentin

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