, Salem, MA


September 25, 2009

Family territory: Updike's son to read from his short story collection in Salem

When David Updike compares himself, as a writer, to anyone in his family, it is usually to his grandmother. She published two collections of short stories under her maiden name, Linda Grace Hoyer, and lived on a farm in Pennsylvania until her death in 1989.

"Her own literary life was much closer to mine," Updike said. Updike recently published his second collection of short stories, "Old Girlfriends," and will read from them at Cornerstone Books in Salem on Wednesday evening.

"She didn't have another job, but her job was her house and her animals. She was kind of stealing time from that when she wrote," Updike said, "and I'm sort of stealing time from teaching when I write."

After graduating from Harvard in 1980, then "mucking around at odd jobs" for a few years, Updike attended Columbia Teachers College in New York, graduating with a master's degree in 1984. He has worked as a teacher ever since and is a professor of English at Roxbury Community College in Boston.

Not that Updike tries to avoid the literary legacy of his father, John Updike, one of America's best-known authors, who died this January at the age of 76.

In an essay published in 2004, Updike recalled a friend who encouraged him to remove his collection of his father's books from the top of his bookshelf, "on the grounds that their psychological weight was too much, and was probably inhibiting my own attempts to write."

"She didn't seem to grasp," Updike wrote, "that, even if I took them off the shelf and hid them in the closet, my father would still be here, with me, in this room, every time I sit down to write a line or two."

This intense closeness is echoed, and returned, in the dedication to "Old Girlfriends," where Updike embraces his parents, "who have always been with me and always will be."

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