The Other John Updike Archive
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On Paying Attention

On Paying Attention

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JU in Boat

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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 Updikes 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.

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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 Im not dead

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Trash and Bumfodder

Trash and Bumfodder

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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

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Bryan Ferry Is Touring. On the set list is Robert Palmers 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 trashToo 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

The Duality Of Man

wife as critic 2

 

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

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“Im willing to show good taste, if I can, in somebody elses living room, but our reading life is too short for a writer to be in any way polite. Since his words enter into anothers 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

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

INTERVIEWER

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

VIDAL

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 Updikes 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 Updikes reading glasses at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin Tx

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Updikes glasses and Lampoon near water glass

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Exchequer

Exchequer

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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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Checks

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And In The Beginning

And In The Beginning

Page 1

July 13, 1972 Final Night of the Democratic National Convention

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Johnny And Mary

Johnnys always running around
Trying to find certainty
He needs all the world to confirm
That he aint 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 hes willing to learn
When he decides hes a fool
Johnny says hell 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 hes
Being discovered
Scared that hell be caught
Without a second thought
Running aroundJohnny feels hes wasting his breath
Trying to talk sense to her
Mary says hes lacking a real
Sense of proportion
So she combs her hair
Knows he tires easilyJohnnys always running around
Trying to find certainty
He needs all the world to confirm
That he aint lonely
Mary counts the walls
Says she should be used to itJohnnys always running around
Running around