Just out from Jack De Bellis, John Updike’s Early Years (Lehigh University Press). The author is responsible for a number of books on Updike, including a two volume bibliography as well as The John Updike Encyclopedia. As Updike fans likely know, he was intent on being a cartoonist in his younger days.
Thurber fans will certainly enjoy the cover and content of the upcoming Big New Yorker Book of Dogs now posted online at your favorite mega-bookseller site. The 416 page hardcover book is due October 30, 2012 (Random House).
The online description reads, in part:
This copious collection, beautifully illustrated in full color, features articles, fiction, humor, poems, cartoons, cover art, drafts, and drawings from the magazine’s archives. The roster of contributors includes John Cheever, Susan Orlean, Roddy Doyle, Ian Frazier, Arthur Miller, John Updike, Roald Dahl, E. B. White, A. J. Liebling, Alexandra Fuller, Jerome Groopman, Jeffrey Toobin, Richard Russo, T. Coraghessan Boyle, Ogden Nash, Donald Barthelme, Jonathan Lethem, Mark Strand, Anne Sexton, and Cathleen Schine. Complete with a Foreword by Malcolm Gladwell and a new essay by Adam Gopnik on the immortal canines of James Thurber, this gorgeous keepsake is a gift to dog lovers everywhere from the greatest magazine in the world.
New Yorker readers who turned to the magazine’s last page a few weeks ago (the issue of May 7) no doubt noticed the Cartoon Caption Contest cartoon by Liza Donnelly was influenced by the iconic silhouette Mad Men image of Don Draper, as seen from behind, with his arm extended out along the back of a chair, cigarette in hand. I asked Ms. Donnelly about this and here’s what she had to say:
I love watching Mad Men, and revisiting the visual style of that era (even though I was just a wee kid back then). Contrasting the Don Draper look with cave people seemed like the perfect set-up for a cartoon. Because, of course, humor is all about the unexpected, the incongruous, the ridiculous. I was surprised that not more captions submitted made reference to Mad Men.
Almost as if returning fire, this past episode of Mad Men (“Dark Shadows”) included a scene with Peggy mentioning New Yorker cartoons as an influence for her Sno Ball pitch.
From The Los Angeles Times, May 10, 2012, “John Updike’s house to become a museum”
Above: Updike’s childhood home in Shillington, Pennsylvania
From the Library Journal, their Fall preview lists a third book of observations on art by John Updike, Always Looking: Essays on Art (Knopf). His first two: Just Looking (Knopf, 1989), and Still Looking (Knopf, 2005).
Also from The Library Journal, a listing for Saul Steinberg: A Biography (Nan A. Talese: Doubleday) by Deirdre Bair. This should be fascinating. According to the Library Journal’s listing, the author was allowed to “rummage through 177 boxes of never-before-seen materials to write this biography.”
Link here for the Library Journal’s post.
Looking for more Steinberg? Harold Rosenberg’s Saul Steinberg (Knopf, 1978) and Joel Smith’s Steinberg at The New Yorker ( Abrams, 2005) are worth seeking out, as are all of Steinbergs collections.
A family member texted me this morning and asked if I was “going to write something about Updike today?” I wrote back, asking if it was his birthday, and while waiting for her answer, Googled “Updike.”
John Hoyer Updike (March 18, 1932 – January 27, 2009)
I’m slowly making my way through Higher Gossip: Essays and Criticism. Slowly, because in the back of my mind I know that once I finish the book then…what? It’s tough to lose a favorite writer, to know the addiction (but not the love) must come to an end. There’ll be more books; the second volume of his collected short stories must surely be in the pipeline. And there’s a biography reportedly in the works – that’ll help.
With someone like Updike, who published so much, it might seem selfish for a reader to want more, but still, it’s difficult to accept that he’s not typing away at his desk in Massachusetts at this very moment.
While thumbing through Conversations with John Updike (Edited by James Plath, University Press of Mississippi, 1994) I came upon an interview conducted by Christopher Lydon on “the Ten O’Clock News,” WGBH -TV Boston December 21, 1989. Updike’s speaking of his trio of illustrations that accompanied his September 5, 1985 New Yorker piece “At War With My Skin” and then says:
“But I’ve never had the wit to submit any successful cartoon ideas. In fact, that’s why I became a writer — you don’t need as many ideas as if you’re a cartoonist.”
Knopf has just published Higher Gossip: Essays and Criticism, a volume of prose John Updike was compiling when he died in 2009.