In this rare, vintage recording from the Literary Arts archive, world-renowned author, poet, and essayist John Updike reads from various poems as well as an essay at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in the fall of 1988. Updike reads from his essay, “Getting the Words Out,” which meditates on his lifelong struggle with stuttering, as well as the nature of speech and communication. With sparkling, self-effacing humor, Updike gives us a doorway into his childhood eccentricities and the ways in which they manifested later in both his public and private life.
Updike agreed to only a small number of speaking engagements, and even fewer of these have been recorded. This rarity, coupled with Updike’s candor and wit, makes for a truly remarkable listening experience.
Poet, essayist, short-story writer, critic, and novelist John Updike was born in Shillington, Pennsylvania, on March 18, 1932. His father taught high school math, and his mother wrote short stories and novels. Updike received his BA from Harvard University in 1954, the year he began to publish in The New Yorker.
Updike is the author of more than fifty books. Among his volumes of poetry are Americana and Other Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 2001), Collected Poems 1953-1993 (1993), Facing Nature (1985), Tossing and Turning (1977), Seventy Poems (1972), Midpoint and Other Poems (1969), and The Carpentered Hen and Other Tame Creatures (1958).
His novels and short-story collections include Toward the End of Time (1997), The Afterlife and Other Stories (1994), Problems and Other Stories (1981), Marry Me (1976), Rabbit Redux (1971), and Couples (1968).
Updike received numerous honors and awards including the National Book Award, American Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, and a National Arts Club Medal of Honor. He was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1982 for Rabbit is Rich and another Pulitzer Prize in 1990 for Rabbit at Rest.
John Updike passed away due to complications of lung cancer on January 27, 2009. [Bio courtesy of the Academy of American Poets.]