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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A picture displays John Updike. In it, he’s wearing this watch and these shorts. Why in the world would Updike have saved the cheap watch in this image? And those shorts? Was it vanity? Not likely. Historical relevance? Also doubtful. This is far from the Gone With the Wind iconic dress I recently saw displayed in the Harry Ransom Center in Austin several weeks ago. That was when I handed over Updike’s glasses, as well as his 1951 Harvard Lampoon, to Ian McKuen. I think it likely he kept such things given how they were a part of HisStory. We know that John Updike was not a Buddhist. He didn’t seek transcendence over this world but instead a reverence of it. This is life for you on this planet. See past the horrors, look past the evil heart of darkness. Look instead for the veritable miracle that is your existence. Or at least try to. Ask any professional tree services in Vienna VA and they’ll tell you that cutting down limbs or even entire trees isn’t fun but it can save lives, property, and even the entire forest. You should be able to see the bigger picture too. That’s what I think he always wanted to share with us. When taking communion, his emphasis was on the simple miracle of bread. He didn’t care if the bread was gluten-free or not.

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September 6, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Paul, I’m also grateful that you preserved materials from JU’s disposable waste. You’ve put it to responsible online use in my opinion. I would guess that quite a few other Updike ‘experts’ are going to be furious that you did this with regularity. I’m certainly not one of them. I’m actually grateful that we some materials that can help us better understand John Updike, even if in indirect ways. Take the heat some vent your way, and keep in mind that there is more than one motivation causing it.

I’m quite sure that neither his wife or kids will be happy. Hopefully, after time they’ll realize the crucial value and historical nature of these rescued disposals. If we want to write history accurately, then we need to know someone and their life stories as precisely as we can. Unintentional consequences of unsanctioned actions can sometimes shed much more light on someone than more conventional methods.

Having reached my elder years by far, I’ve certainly been able to put in my two cents about John Updike in The Centaurian. I worked hard every day publishing things by both his admirers and his critics. Sadly, a day came in 2009 where we lost the daily updated records for The Centaurian because our online source we were renting had a malfunction and collapsed electronically immediately. All of it, gone, just like that. Their online business folded and they just vanished. I never got any other information other than that.

Over the decade plus that I edited that site, I surely hope I was instrumental in helping readers understand John Updike, his admirers, and his critics more than before. John Updike wasn’t always happy with the things that I put online. He told me that. He was firm, but he was always candid.

Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran College, located in St. Peter in Minnesota houses much of the postcards, personal letters, and correspondence he and I shared. These materials are helpful in learning the caliber and depth Updike had as a writer who penned so much great literature. If presented responsibly, the materials from your ‘trash archive’ could do more for awareness and celebration of his life and work. I’m happy such material is in your capable hands.

Cordially yours, James Yerkes

Founder, Former Editor: The Centaurian, a website about John Updike

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Trash and Bumfodder

Trash and Bumfodder

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The mixed up and inconsequent appearance of things sometimes play a role in yielding us a gift. In my early years, as a boy, I felt the impression of being surrounded by unclear generosity, of – a barefaced reminiscence I wrote at one point – a silent, however relentless goodness that substances at rest appear to affirm. A wordless reassurance all these things are pushing to offer. A hallucination? To illustrate middleness with all its struggles, bumps, grits, and anonymities, in its wholeness of satisfaction as well as a mystery: is it capable of happening, or looking at the suffering that violently surrounds the periphery and that at all times threatens to go into the center, worth undertaking? Maybe not; but the telephone poles, horse-chestnut trees, the porches, the green hedges retreat to a cool point, that according to my view is still the middle of the world.

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

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Bryan Ferry Is Touring. The setlist includes Robert Palmers Johnny and Mary. Very Updike.

Roxy Redux:

“I had moved backstage at the Orpheum, Boston, where I stood on the side of the stage door across from Bryan Ferry during the Manifesto Tour of Roxy Music.

DJ Mark Parente of WBCN was trying to make Bryan remember an intersection in the past, but Ferry was smoothly distracted as the music played during his grand entrance. I admired Ferry’s leather suit jacket. After the show was over, I found some poetry books and a carton of Dunhill cigarettes the singer had left behind as he tried to escape his loyal fans. The Dunhills had the lovely inscription: “Meant For Bryan Ferry…” by Boston Phoenix writer Robert Polito. Not quite similar to the special leather jacket.

When life appears to be lunatic, no one can tell where the madness lies. Possibly to be very practical maybe the madness. To give up on dreams, could be madness. To look for treasures in a place full of trash. Too much sanity may be madness, and the highest level of madness is to see life as it appears rather than the way it should be.

– Miguel De Cervantes, Don Quixote de la Mancha

Any task assumes to be creative when the doer is concerned about doing it in the right way or making it better. John Updike.

This article is written by one of the members of tree trimming in Alexandria.

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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