Updike naar Harvard

Nieuws | de redactie
13 oktober 2009 | Harvard krijgt het archief van John Updike. Met zijn boeken, zijn recensie-exemplaren en aantekeningen daarbij. En de kaartjes met zijn golfscores en een folder van de Toyota die hij kocht.

“John Updike is a terribly important American, given hiscultural and literary achievement,” said William Pritchard, anEnglish professor at Amherst College who chronicled the writer’slife and work in “Updike: America’s Man of Letters.” “It’s anextraordinary thing that his university is where his papers havelanded.”

Lined up, the entire archive stretches 380 linear feet. It spans1,500 books, including Updike’s collection of his own work,published in foreign languages and English, as well as books Updikereviewed – with his pencil marks underlining the text, making notesin the margins, or bracketing a particularly well-turnedphrase.

The papers also include photographs, files of brochures andfliers used in his research, sample dust-jacket designs, andletters from such literary figures as Kurt Vonnegut and Joyce CarolOates, as well as from fans.

The archive is so extensive because Updike was not onlyprolific, he also was a perfectionist, said Leslie Morris, curatorof modern books and manuscripts at Houghton Library, which alsohouses the papers of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickinson, HermanMelville, T.S. Eliot, and Edward Hoagland, a classmate ofUpdike’s.

Updike, a longtime resident of Beverly Farms, was disciplinedand usually wrote for three hours every day. He produced multipledrafts of his poetry and prose, revising the computer printoutswith pens and pencils, objects that Morris said the library hasalso acquired.

A close examination of the manuscripts and correspondencereveals the cultural transformations reflected in Updike’s works.In the first edition of “Rabbit, Run,” the 1960 novel thatlaunched Updike into literary stardom, editors and publisherspushed him to remove many of the sex scenes, considered tooexplicit for the time, Morris said. The full text was not publisheduntil 1964.

Once the papers are catalogued, any researcher can gain accessto the trove after registering with the library.

Updike, who entered Harvard on a scholarship, previously haddonated a small portion of his papers to the university, includingearly short-story manuscripts written for the New Yorker;”Telephone Poles,” his early poetry collection; and nearlycomplete documentation on the creation of “Rabbit, Run.”

For decades, the author deposited more of his papers, even golfscore cards, at Houghton Library. But the later papers were notintegrated with the rest of the collection, and Updike’s permissionwas required for any of the materials to be made available.

“There has always been this very personal connection between theHarvard libraries and John Updike,” Morris said.

In Harvard’s alumni magazine, Updike described the fourth floorof the Widener Library as one of his favorite spots on campus, aplace where students must walk around a set of metal shelves inorder to exit down the stairs.

“More than once, as an undergraduate, I missed this pivotal,unmarked turn, and found myself faced with a blank wall, or with anindignant PhD candidate dozing in his nook,” Updike wrote. “Howlike Harvard, I thought at the time, to set us these incidentaltests.”

For “Terrorist,” his 2006 novel about the post-9/11 world – “amilieu he was not necessarily familiar with,” Morris said – Updikeworked in Widener to get the Islamic context correct. For thecharacter of Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, the car-dealer protagonistin his tetralogy, Updike combed through books and articles aboutautomobiles and dealerships.

His archive includes a research file for “Rabbit at Rest,” forwhich he won the 1991 Pulitzer, that contains a brochure for a 1989Toyota Cressida and an account of a visit to a Toyota dealership inNew Jersey that detailed the agency’s operations.

[uit de Boston Globe]

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