Why John Updike Became a Writer

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.”



Eustace Tini


One of my favorite events of the year is The New Yorker’s Holiday Party. Long long ago when I began contributing to the magazine the cartoonists had their own bash, an informal affair held in the waiting area  just outside the Art Editor’s office (the Art Editor then was Lee Lorenz, and the magazine was located at 25 West 43rd St). Henry Martin, cartoonist, and all around wonderful guy, would bring in his rum balls, and there would be drink of course (even though the party took place during the usual “look” time just before noon). Around noon, many of the cartoonists would head out the door to a favorite restaurant for a post party lunch.


In recent years the Holiday Party has been held in the evening at various venues around the city, mostly downtown. This past Wednesday, New Yorker employees of all stripes gathered below ground in a space once used as an air raid shelter.  Partiers, sipping Eustace Tinis, stood beneath a vaulted brick ceiling.  At a far end of the space, cartoonists gathered together like shards of metal drawn together by a magnet.  The only thing missing was a platter of rum balls.