“One of the best and oddest academic books to appear in quite some time.… (A) blissful snort of unfiltered catnip.”
The New York Times
“Acres of print have been consecrated to Updike and his achievements, from academic treatises to Nicholson Baker’s sublimely idiosyncratic tribute U & I, but perhaps the book that captures Updike’s writerly public persona best is a curious little gem called Updike in Cincinnati: A Literary Performance, an account (edited by James Schiff) of Updike’s readings and musings at a short story festival in 2001. Graced with Updike’s customary humor, perception, painterly eye, gloved modesty, and acute social radar, Updike in Cincinnati is most revealing when the author is acknowledging the limitations that lie treacherously under the surface.”
“An invaluable time capsule.... William H. Pritchard and Donald J. Greiner join Schiff as three of the very best Updike critics....”
American Literary Scholarship
“Updike impromptu is remarkable. Here, in print, is that clever man dancing around an audience question couched in a baseball analogy … which concerns Updike never having received the Nobel Prize. Updike responds with an extemporaneous, philosophical and very knowing take on baseball history, including the Black Sox scandal.…”
For two spring days in 2001, John Updike visited Cincinnati, Ohio, engaging and charming his audiences, reading from his fiction, fielding questions, sitting for an interview, participating in a panel discussion, and touring the Queen City.
Successful writers typically spend a portion of their lives traveling the country to give readings and lectures. While a significant experience for author and audience alike, this public spectacle, once covered in detailed newspaper accounts, now is barely noticed by the media. Updike in Cincinnati—composed of a wealth of materials, including session transcripts, short stories discussed and read by the author, photographs, and anecdotal observations about Updike's performance and personal interactions--is unique in its comprehensive coverage of a literary visit by a major American author.
Updike's eloquence, intelligence, improvisational skills, and gift for comedy are all on display. With natural grace, he discusses a range of topics, including his novels and short stories, his mother and oldest son as writers, Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson, the Nobel Prize, his appearance on The Simpsons, the Cold War, and Hamlet.
Augmented with commentary by critics W. H. Pritchard and Donald Greiner, and an introduction and interview by James Schiff, Updike in Cincinnati provides an engaging and detailed portrait of one of America's contemporary literary giants.
James Schiff is an associate professor of English at the University of Cincinnati. He is the author of several books on contemporary fiction, including Updike's Version, John Updike Revisited, and Understanding Reynolds Price.
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