November 20, 2003

Updike Reads Work To Packed Statler

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Literary legend John Updike, brought by the Atkinson Forum in American Studies and the Department of English Program in Creative Writing, spoke to a packed Statler Hall Auditorium last night. Updike will take part in a question and answer session today at 11 a.m. in Barnes Hall, entitled The Craft of Fiction: a Conversation with John Updike.

Updike was frist introduced by Prof. Lamar Herrin, director of the creative writing program, and then by Joel Porte, the E.I. White Professor of English and American Studies. “He has won nearly every award known to man,” Porte said. Updike has in fact been the recipient of numerous literary awards and is a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. “It is an awesome pleasure for me to welcome him to Cornell.”

Updike then took the stage and recalled fondly on his own connections to Cornell: his second wife is a Cornell graduate, and he declined an acceptance to Cornell in 1949 although he said “it is a warm furrow in my heart … though the path not exactly taken.”

Updike first read through selections of his early poems although he cautioned that, “I don’t want to … overdo these” drawing laughter from the audience.

“I thought that the reading was really funny. The audience was laughing even when he wasn’t trying to make us laugh,” said Parker Pringle ’03.

Updike’s readings continued to please the audience as he moved onto his short stories. He read “The Persistence of Desire,” a story included in the latest anthology of his early work, The Early Stories: 1953-1955, for sale at the Cornell Store. “It’s kind of an exercise in self-incrimination,” he said. “[When my editor asked me to compile my early short stories,] I don’t think she meant for me to find them all, but I saw no easy place to draw the line.”

“Everyone in the audience was sharing some similar experience that he was giving us but it was different for everyone, because [with short stories] everyone takes something different away,” said Nate Smith ’06.

The conversation with Updike being held today will be moderated by Herrin and Prof. Glenn C. Altschuler, the Litwin Professor of American Studies, who is currently teaching Updike’s novel Rabbit is Rich in his American Studies 102 course.

Archived article by Logan Bromer