Collecting John Updike
By Tom Congalton
If you want to collect John Updike in detail, you'd better build an addition onto your library. Its not true that he publishes a new book every week, it just seems like it, and his cheery indifference to writers' block has probably made him an editor's dream. He is generous with his signature, and apparently open to offers from publishers of limited editions.
His first three books, a book of poetry The Carpentered Hen and Other Tame Creatures (1958); a book of short stories, The Poorhouse Fair (1959); and a novel Rabbit, Run (1960); are all moderately scarce in fine condition. The Carpentered Hen, despite being a slim volume of verse, tends to have a weak binding, so check to see if the text block has fallen forward much. The jacket copy also has to mention that the author has two children, as he apparently kept busy and two more children had appeared when the second issue came out. Reportedly the jacket on Rabbit, Run was identical through the first few printings, so you might want to check to see if it's been "married" to a first edition from a later printing (be suspicious if the jacket, which usually absorbs the most wear, is in better condition than the book). Because Updike has done so many limited and ephemeral pieces, some are truly rare: Dog's Death (1965), a short poem on a single mimeographed sheet, supposedly done in an edition of 100 copies is rarely seen (we've had it once). Although not so rare, his celebration of the last plate appearance of Ted Williams Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu (1977), a signed, limited edition, enjoys extra collecting pressure from baseball hobbyists, and especially Red Sox fans, and copies are occasionally seen signed by Williams, although they weren't necessarily intended to be. His work on Buckner's Bobble has yet to be written, but don't mention it or he'll have it out sometime next week.
Jack de Bellis and Michael Broomfield: John Updike - A Bibliography of primary and secondary materials. With "Foreword to my own Bibliography" by John Updike and a CD supplement. New Castle, Delaware, Oak Knoll Press, 2007
The article is published by permission of Between the Covers Rare Books, Inc. Thank you very much.
Published since 28 May 2010