This is a restatement of purpose. This site will no longer lay fallow after a suspension of postings due to copyright concerns. The most historical material, the pristine photography from a visual master and his private thoughts in writing, committed to computer discs, must remain for now in a secure location. The artifacts contained herein of this exquisite 20th century documentarian are a time capsule. I am: giving the mundane its beautiful due in order to preserve the material legacy which he articulated. These are the remnants of a life dedicated to recovering the sense memory of a objects imbued with human intention
For John Updike the postal system was magic. Simply sending a note is for him a message in a bottle; receiving a response, an answered prayer. Like a stamp collecting boy, postal transactions and delivery retained their seraphic magic. A letter held for him the sacredness of a time traversed communion delivered safely to the door of his fortress of solitude. It was as if the Holy Spirit moonlighted as carrier pigeon. In the pagan, organic and material world of objects, he is arrested by a sense of implied divinity in the system of our transported paper wishes. Like everything else in his material world, it is for him, a kind of miracle. Plagued by theological doubt, and at times overcome by panic, moral terror and a sense of futility, he shunned Eastern transcendence and looked breathlessly for material evidence to justify his hope that a loving and merciful God presented Himself in nature, humanity, the stars and even within the much maligned system known as the postal service. Paul Moran.
John Updikes Archive: A Great Writer at Work
As it grew, he wore his fame lightly as his due, like one of his own well-worn sweaters, thin at the elbows. He loved public institutions — libraries, schools, the post office — letters arriving and departing, the simple act of completion — dropping it in the slot. David Updike remembers his father in New York Times column: A Toast to the Visible World August 10, 2009
Perfectionism is the enemy of creation, as extreme self-solitude is the enemy of well-being. John Updike
Telephone Poles John Updike
They have been with us a long time.
They will outlast the elms.
Our eyes, like the eyes of a savage sieving the trees
In his search for game,
Run through them. They blend along small-town streets
Like a race of giants that have faded into mere mythology.
Our eyes, washed clean of belief,
Lift incredulous to their fearsome crowns of bolts, trusses, struts, nuts, insulators, and such
Barnacles as compose
These weathered encrustations of electrical debris¬
Each a Gorgon’s head, which, seized right,
Could stun us to stone.
Yet they are ours. We made them.
See here, where the cleats of linemen
Have roughened a second bark
Onto the bald trunk. And these spikes
Have been driven sideways at intervals handy for human legs.
The Nature of our construction is in every way
A better fit than the Nature it displaces
What other tree can you climb where the birds’ twitter,
Unscrambled, is English? True, their thin shade is negligible,
But then again there is not that tragic autumnal
Casting-off of leaves to outface annually.
These giants are more constant than evergreens
By being never green.
John Updike (b. 1932, d.2009)
the telephone is only
for emergency purposes.
It has taken me decades
but I have finally found out
how to say no.
Now dont be concerned for them,
please: they will simply dial another number.
It could be yours.Charles Bukowski
I am drawn to the aesthetic of a hand-worn book—say the way that a book has been taped lovingly together, or one that speaks of someone having handled it for a very long time as a precious object. I am also attracted to the marginalia in books and how there is this whole other intimacy and world within books that go beyond the story and the work of the original author. And then, you know, you see that these intimate precious objects are then dumped – Jacqueline Rush Lee
Song for Andy Warhol (Hes a Pole!)
The Protestant Work Ethic and The Repetition of Catholic Iconography
John Updike and fellow Pennsylvanian Andy Warhol were the premier interpreters of the second half of the 20th century. There are many documentarians from that period, but they were the leading artists who described the zeitgeist of their time. Their significance was largely due to their conviction, that there is a hidden radiance beneath the surface of ordinary life. They examined the smallest details as if they were worthy of our notice. They watched people and reported on their mundane concerns, and the signal artifacts of their consumption: from sex to soup, and from soup to nuts (Planters Peanut Bars)*.
In the Poor House Fair, Updike finds epic subterranean tensions and spiritual warfare, within the the most tedious environment imaginable: a home for the elderly and the indigent. Warhol celebrated the common, the pedestrian, and the ordinary with the same fascination as he vetted movie stars. He recognized that a humble bottle of Coke provided the same democratic pleasure to those who could scrounge a dime, as it did for the most discerningly thirsty aristocrat.
Whether incidentally or by design, they both worked relentlessly to wrest cultural dominance from the continental elites. Although the work of both men was widely considered to be at times decadent, even pornographic, they were adamantly Christian. Though they were consecutively linked to the cool underground art world and the Playboy literati, they were decidedly and at times intentionally uncool. Their remaining relics have been collected, assembled and archived here, as the last bread crumbs of a trail that is rapidly going cold. People have, to a large degree, moved on. Social media postings, and a flood of internet images are reducing the impact of canvas works and complex literary constructions. The book in its traditional form, is itself at risk of becoming entirely digitized. No one has managed to impact the world through artistic imagery like Andy Warhol. John Updike has few promising heirs on the horizon, with perhaps the noted exception of Martin Amis. Their fully harvested talents, and the essence,meaning, message, and the medium of their vast production, will one day be revisited as their corpus remains un-succeeded.
There is a code that is contained within the works of both of these artists. It can be easily cracked if one cares to pause and consider their themes. It may be deciphered with the most elementary decoder ring, retrieved from a mass produced, cartoon festooned box of cereal. You only have to reflect upon their intentions and to look carefully at their work. It is militantly Christian, as well as democratically and singularly American. It might be useful for us to look back upon their works, and reconsider our collective moral compass. They are asking us to renew the spiritual template of our traditions. To be neither shrill nor angry, and to honor the reasonability and moderation contained within the Western canon as described by Harold Bloom. We are prompted to return to an Orientalism that presumes that our Western heritage, rooted in the Judeo-Christian ethos is, well, bettermuch better. So encouraged, we may hopefully avoid a glittery self-deifying neo-paganism.
Their code is an allegiance to New Testament values: a crack of daylight revealed between the tribal legalism of Orthodox Judaism and Islamic Fundamentalism. The subtext of these artists works promote Western values in the context of a society based upon the classical Liberal tradition. Paradoxically, these pornographers sought to rescue American culture from further entropic moral abstraction and decay. They tried to make us see, that despite their respect for multicultural diversity, some ideas are clearly better than others. Western Jeffersonian democracy and the Rights of Man are held up, as superior models of human organization. They are opposed to centralized governments and the rough trade of utopian fantasies for absolute governmental hegemony. Updike s book, Terrorist gently (Christopher Hitchens would say far too gently in his review) inspires us to prepare to defend ourselves against theocratic fatwa issuing Caliphates, and not assume that we will prevail next time by returning to the pacific flower baiting of the Summer of Love (See Updikes tract: On Not Being A Dove).
Updike and Warhol embrace and celebrate the pagan elements of our American culture. Updike says their pleasures rival at times, the non-temporal and most worshipful Christian hope. In his book: In the Beauty of the Lilies, Updike demonstrates how the glamour and storytelling parables of film, gave the saving rituals of Christian liturgy and collective prayer a literal run for their money. These men were fascinated by our pagan heritage, studying it with the eyes of cultural anthropologists. Still they remain ever mindful to never let the servant become the master. If these values are not explicitly proselytized within their work, they are everywhere implied. -Paul Moran
Capitalism is an art form, an Apollonian fabrication to rival nature. It is hypocritical for feminists and intellectuals to enjoy the pleasures and conveniences of capitalism while sneering at it. Everyone born into capitalism has incurred a debt to it. Give Caesar his due. -Camille Paglia
My generation of the Sixties, with all our great ideals, destroyed liberalism, because of our excesses. -Camille Paglia
The Observer Now Observed
In addition to glimpses of the artist solving technical problems are materials that lay bare a sturdy foundation of background research. There are half-century-old snapshots of storefronts in Reading, Pa., the model for Rabbit’s hometown of Brewer, along with 1980s clippings from The Reading Eagle. There are also photocopied pages from medical books on heart disease as well as correspondence from a boyhood friend, a surgeon, who offered to arrange for Updike to observe an angioplasty procedure. (Rabbit undergoes one, described with clinical precision.)
And there is a memo from a researcher catching Updike up on current sales and commissions at Toyota franchises of the kind owned by the Angstrom family, along with photocopied pages from a handbook on car salesmanship, with Updike’s marginal notes, and several pages (obtained through the Federal Highway Administration) showing sample Florida license plates. Other folders include a jotted list of basketball moves (“double-pump lane jumper”) and a letter from Bob Ryan, a sportswriter for The Boston Globe, summarizing the career of the 1980s N.B.A. dunk-shot specialist Darryl Dawkins.
There is even a wrapper from a Planters Peanut Bar*, as lovingly preserved as a pressed autumn leaf, evidently used by Updike to describe the moment when Rabbit, addicted to high-cholesterol junk food, greedily devours the candy and then, still unsatisfied, “dumps the sweet crumbs out of the wrapper into his palm and with his tongue licks them all up like an anteater” — an early warning that he’s headed for a heart attack. – John Updike’s Archive: A Great Writer At Work By Sam Tanenhaus New York Times, June 20, 2010
Song for Andy 2
To believe the envious Truman Capote, Andy was a Sphinx without a secret. In fact, he did have a secret, one that the kept dark from all but his closest friends: he was exceedingly devout so much so that he made daily visits to the church of Saint Vincent Ferrer on the Upper East Side of Manhattan Although famously thrifty, he was also secretly charitable. Besides giving financial support, he often spent evenings working in a shelter for the homeless run by the Church of the Heavenly Rest. It was not soppy social consciousness or guilt that prompted Andys good works; it was atavism as personified by his adored and adoring mother, the pious Julia. John Richardson [from “Warhol at Home” in Sacred Monsters, Sacred Masters (London: Pimlico, 2001), p. 247-8]:
Sixty Degrees of Separation: I met Johnny Lydon/Rotten 33 years ago at Strawberries Records in Boston. Several months ago I stumbled upon a performance by Lydon in downtown Austin/Roger Ebert worked with Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious on a film called “Who Killed Bambi”/Roger Ebert wrote about the Vicious Circle at the Algonquin Hotel/John Updike dreamed of being a part of the Vicious Circle at the Algonquin Hotel. /Roger Ebert and John Updike loved the movies. /John Updike loved Doris Day./ Roger Ebert loved Doris Day and did the narration for a seven part documentary on her for PBS. And uh, I like the movies, but not the ones with Liza Minnelli. Okay I got nothin’ but here goes:
Liza Minnelli and Otto Preminger
All Friends Again: Film Premiere at Cannes
Movies lifted the men and women of drab American towns and cities from their ordinary lives onto a supernatural level. We all tried, in our small ways, to live up to the stars—to dress as smartly, to act as bravely, to love as completely. No wonder that so many of the vacant theaters are now churches. We worshipped in those spaces, and for all the frequent shoddiness and imbecility of the mass-market motion picture, there was nothing to prevent grandeur from occurring; there were, in the mad profusion, the weekly tumble, works of cinematic art that moved and transformed us absolutely as the best and noblest painting, music, and poetry. For Americans, it was our native opera, bastard and sublime. -John Updike
It is not suffering as such that is most deeply feared but suffering that degrades.- Susan Sontag
The first time I watched a movie being made up-close was in 1969. I was eleven years old and my dad was in the hospital recovering from prostate cancer surgery. Dad told me that they decided during the surgery to remove his testicles in an effort to slow the growth of the malignancy. My mother was sad, as she knew my dad felt hurt and humiliated. She told me later that he had apologized to her, as it appeared to him that their physical intimacy would essentially be over. I could tell that they needed their privacy and went downstairs to the lobby of the Salem Hospital. I quickly became distracted from my parent’s ordeal however, as I found they were shooting A MOVIE!
I stood in the doorway of the hospital lobby seemingly unnoticed, as a bald man who looked to me like a Nazi or a Bond villain, was ordering a frail looking girl, dressed in shabby inpatient attire named Liza Minnelli, to do the the same elementary scene over and over and over again. The man I was told was Otto Preminger, (known only to me as Mr Freeze from the Batman TV series) a respected director of films that were “edgy” and sometimes risque. I knew who Liza Minnelli was, and I most certainly knew of her mother from the Wizard of Oz. I had always found Liza to be an anti-celebrity of sorts. As an insecure kid, I recognized in her a certain desperation. I later read that the film had begun shooting on June 10, 1969, which was Judy Garlands birthday. Garland died a couple of weeks later on June 22. Liza was criticized in the press for a nude scene that was done in a cemetary for the film, so shortly after her mothers passing,
I was here watching the Hollywood sausage being made and it wasnt pretty. Still, I felt compelled to watch this Germanic sounding man wielding directorial power over this seemingly brutalized waif. I read the other day that Alec Baldwin said: “Film is a directors medium- the director makes it into a movie. The actor doesn’t make it into a movie. You’re like an ingredient in a salad”. It just looked like the director was eccentrically making Liza put down a vase with a single rose in it with unending variations of force, as if to achieve a certain volume as it was slammed upon the table. It seemed like a lost scene from Sunset Boulevard. We have all witnessed the overwrought Academy Awards moments: the “You like me, you really, really like me!” gushing. Well it’s no wonder these show-dogs want their moments of recognition, if this is the nightmare of debasement, required for the constuction of celluloid dreams.
What I was watching, I only just learned, (since finding the Youtube video from the movie which was titled “Tell Me That You Love Me Junie Moon”) was essentially a “blocking” rehearsal. Liza with a Z was alone in the room, wearing a shabby bathrobe. Preminger ordered her repeatedly to wordlessly traverse the hospital lobby and plop a vase containing a single rose on a table across the room. I don’t know how many times he ordered her to do it again, but it seemed like a cruel exercise to me. I watched this bit of absurdist theater, (which I remember to be a count of 37 takesbut I could be wrong) before I finally walked away as my discomfort became unbearable. I felt a toe-curling humiliation by proxy for Miss Minnelli.
Years later I tried to watch the movie, but much like Minnelli’s other films, the Sterile Cuckoo and Cabaret, that came out around that time, I always felt embarrassed for her. I usually like films about human pain and dysfunction- I can relate. I have always loved Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolfe. One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest was a revelation to me when I first saw it at seventeen. In the Youtube video you see Minnelli approach two men sitting at a table and now, with the addition of scarring makeup, place the rose on the table in such an incidental manner that it seems even more strange that she was forced to DO IT AGAIN.. take after take.
I’ve since witnessed the tedium and monotony of movie sets, but nothing that seemed so utterly degrading as that. I returned to my father’s hospital room to seek refuge from the pain of what I had just witnessed. -Paul Moran
Regarding Johnny Rotten
Around 1980 I went to see Johnny Rotten (formerly of the Sex Pistols) aka John Lydon perform with his new band PIL (Public Image Limited) at the Orpheum Theater in Boston. It was a primitively elegant and thrilling concert. Lydon was still the master anti-showman. At one point he began to verbally attack the audience as the performance intentionally ground to a halt. Johnny, Jah Wobble, Keith Levine and the rest of the band quit the stage after only 45 minutes of play.
The audience booed themselves hoarse in the darkened theater. A spot light popped on, and a duck walking Lydon returned to the stage in an oversized suit jacket. Like the Hunchback of Bristol he perversely began picking up the objects that had been angrily thrown at the stage and placing them in his pockets. “Throw more money!” Lydon demanded. The band gradually resumed playing and the audience loved the provocation.
I was walking down a street in Austin with my wife Mary five months ago, when I heard a band playing in a downtown park. I said to Mary: “That band you hear is doing a really nice tribute to a group I saw 30 years ago called Public Image Limited. We crossed the street and inquired as to who was playing. I was stunned that it was indeed PIL! I bribed a security guard (16 bucks) to let us both in to see the rest of the show. Lydon still had it. I couldnt believe my eyes. It was like a punk rock dream. One minute I was strolling along on a warm Austin evening, and the next I was having a flashback in real time. -Paul Moran
Updike began writing for the New Yorker at 22. They accepted a light-verse poem, and then they took a story. Taking the story was very important to me because that was the New Yorker, and here I was on that Pennsylvania farm. I had once thought: how can you get from here to there? And now I had gotten there. His first intention was to be a humorist I thought that was a very harmless thing to be and to join the suave Algonquin gang whose jokes had given him much pleasure and whose drawings he had traced in imitation. But of course by the time I got there the gang was gone and the party was over. Its sometimes said that cold war anxieties, atomic bomb anxieties, killed humour, though I dont really buy it. But anyway, the time when facetious writing could attract real talents was over, and the talents were looking elsewhere.