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.
What a spirit feeling spinning round my head, makes me feel glad that Im not dead
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 Palmers Johnny and Mary. Very Updikean
“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
Yikes! An indelicate passage By JU gets a bad review from his wife?
“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
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!
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 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