Updike's Literary Archive: Sneak Preview

Taking a look at the Houghton Library holdings

Harvard's Houghton Library has purchased the papers of the late author John Updike '54, Litt.D. ’92 (as previously reported), and the New York Times recently published several pieces germane to Updike and his archive. Although the materials, which now occupy 170 boxes at Houghton and will take two years to catalog, are not yet available to biographers or scholars, Times writer Sam Tanenhaus received permission for a three-day "sneak preview" of the archive, and made use of that opportunity to file a quartet of reports.

•In "John Updike's Archive: A Great Writer at Work," Tanenhaus focuses on the author's letters to his parents, early in his career, to sketch a young man virile with ambition and self-confidence, as well as awareness of his limitations.

•In an ArtsBeat blog, Tanenhaus and Times writer Charles McGrath, a good friend of Updike, converse about the author.

•In "Literary Ore of Updike, Do-It-Yourself Man of Letters," Tanenhaus describes Updike's attitudes toward his papers, which at one time he described as "the refuse of my profession," and the meticulous organization he brought to those documents before delivering them to Houghton.

•In "The Roommates: Updike and Christopher Lasch," Tanenhaus describes the relationship between the novelist and his college roommate Christopher Lasch ’54 (both graduated summa cum laude), who became a cultural historian and author of The Culture of Narcissism (1981).

The literary agent for Updike's estate, Andrew Wylie ’70, is the subject of a current Harvard Magazine profile, "Fifteen Percent of Immortality."


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