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First John Updike conference to be held this fall

June 15, 2010 |  4:54 pm


The works of John Updike will be celebrated and examined at the inaugural John Updike Conference, to be held this fall in Reading, Penn.

Updike, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, may be best remembered as the author of the Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom novels,  beginning with 1960's "Rabbit, Run,"  which tapped middle class America's shifting sense of responsibility and desire. But he was also a prolific literary critic and superb short story writer: Lorrie Moore wrote that he was "quite possibly . . . American literature's greatest short story writer" in the New York Review of Books in 2003 "and arguably our greatest writer." Updike died in January 2009 of lung cancer.

The John Updike Society was formed after his death and officially launched at the May 2009 American Literature Assn. Conference. The John Updike Society has organized October's conference with Alvernia University.

Acclaimed writer Ann Beattie and her husband, painter Lincoln Perry, will be the keynote speakers. Beattie will talk about Updike's short fiction, Perry about his painting series based on Updike's Rabbit novels. Other featured guests will include Updike's first wife and three of his children, along with classmates from Shillington High School.

Updike lived in Shillington, a suburb of Reading, and also on a farm in nearby Plowville. During three summers he worked as a copy boy for the newspaper the Reading Eagle. A tour of notable places from Updike's past will be available for conference attendees. The area also figured in his fiction; in the Rabbit novels, it is called Brewster.

The conference will include panels and discussions of Updike's work. Registration is $85 per person by July 1 and $120 per person after. The group plans to hold another Updike conference, in another part of the country, in 2012.

New members are welcome to join the society for the conference; membership is $25 a year for regular members and $20 a year for retirees and students.

 For more information about the conference, visit the website of Alvernia University or the John Updike Society website for a full list of events and complete bios on keynote speakers.

-- Carolyn Kellogg


Photo: John Updike in 2000. Credit: Adam Van Doren / PBS

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