Lot 135: Irate Updike Letter to Publisher: I Will Not Return the Contract or Cash the Check
Presidential Letters, Free Franks & Speeches: Washington to Bush + Important Autographs in History, Science & the Arts
26 October 2016
New York, NY, USALive Auction
Description: John Updike’s Irate Letter to His Publisher: “In fact, in writing this paragraph I got have gotten so steamed up I will not return the contract, or cash the check, until I hear from you” ********** UPDIKE, JOHN. (1932-2009). American author best known for Couples, The Witches of Eastwick and his Rabbit series. TLS. (“John Updike”). ½p. 4to. Ipswich, February 20 (1960). To editor, critic and novelist RICHARD BRICKNER (1934-2006). ********** “Just got back from somewhere [the following five words in holograph] a month in the Caribbean; hence the delay in returning this agreement. May I say that I understood from Mr. Levin that the title of the volume was to be Seven Boyhoods, and that I think this is roughly 10,000,000 [the last three zeros added by hand] times better than Boyhood Anthology, which besides being ugly and as a title a great big nothing-ball is misleading, suggesting that the book is a set of excerpts from works old and newe [sic]. My impression of the book was that seven of us, none the same age, would write for this book seven accounts. If my impression is incorrect, please tell me. While the book is only fractionally mine, I feel as strong about the title as my fraction will allow, and stronger, and indeed feel somewhat misled upon a by no means trivial matter, as to the tone of the book and its contents. In fact, in writing this paragraph I got [next two words in holograph] have gotten so steamed up I will not return the contract, or cash the check, until I hear from you…”********** Along with Philip Roth, Cormac McCarthy, and Don DeLillo, Updike is considered one of the great American novelists of the 20th century. His prolific output explores such themes as sex, death and religion as they relate to the American middle class. Among his numerous novels are Rabbit, Run; Rabbit at Rest; The Witches of Eastwick; Couples; Brazil; and The Centaur. Our letter refers to an anthology entitled Five Boyhoods whose contributors included actor and playwright Howard Lindsay, writer and publisher Harry Golden, cartoonist Walt Kelly, writer and teacher William K. Zinsser, and Updike. It was published by Doubleday in 1962 and edited by Martin Levin (1919-2016). Levin had a long and distinguished publishing career before entering into a second career as a high profile attorney, specializing in publishing law. ********** Brickner was an editor at Doubleday, frequent contributor to The New York Times Book Review and a memoirist and novelist. His works include My Second Twenty Years: An Unexpected Life, an account of a car accident that left him paralyzed, and novels The Broken Year, Bringing Down the House, Tickets, and After She Left. ********** Our letter, typed on the top quadrant of a blank sheet, includes several words in Updike’s hand. Neatly signed, folded with staple holes in the upper left corner, several tears along the right edge and overall creasing and wear. In very good condition. Accompanied by Brickner’s typed carbon to which our letter is a reply as well as an unsigned carbon of a letter from Brickner discussing royalty payments for the project.