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Book Sale Booster: the "Updike Effect"
One For Each Night: Chanukah Tales and Recipes

A few years back, John Updike was a guest of the University of Tennessee.   He volunteered to come over and speak informally to the English Department (a generous gesture).   I rounded up the faculty and students who were hanging around the mail room, and we gathered excitedly for an off-the-cuff talk about books and writing.   I walked with John Updike from the student center to the Humanities building and back; we schmoozed.   I told him that I planned to enter Zingerman's creative writing contest, as I was a big fan of their scones.  First prize was a basket of goodies from Zingerman's Deli.   John said that he liked scones.   Please do not enter this contest, I begged!  I won second prize, which was a dozen bagels delivered to my door once a month.  The best thing I ever won.  (The first prize winner was a couple who had met and married over Zingerman's products).  I sent John Updike my little Chanukah book that has good recipes for rugalach and so forth--thinking that a person who liked scones might also like the Jewish stories and pastries.

About a year later, when I Googled this book, one copy came up on e-bay for 100 dollars. (The book should cost no more than 12 dollars).  When I looked at the ad, the copy said, "Previously owned by John Updike."   I laughed so hard I fell off the chair.   So, what happened?  I doubt that John sold the book on ebay.  I'm guessing he doesn't need the money!  Maybe he gave it to a greedy graduate student?

Oddly, this was not the only price-enhanced "formerly owned by" Kallet volume I found online.  There was book I'd given to Denise Levertov, who is no longer living.   The ad read "Inscribed to Denise Levertov."  And here, too, a ten dollar book was being sold for 100 dollars online!

 "Why don't you dedicate all of your books to Denise Levertov?" my husband asked.   Or give them to John Updike. 

Comments
6 Comment count
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What a great story...

disturbing in all the most interesting ways.

Cheryl Snell www.shivasarms.blogspot.com

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No Kidding!

Thanks for commenting Cheryl--yes, truth be told, my first response at seeing the book for sale was a touch of anger--

Cheers, here's to your work, Marilyn 

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This is too funny! Dang,

This is too funny! Dang, maybe I should start signing books for famous dead folk and scattering them around...

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It is tempting!

It sure boosts sales.   But let's stay on this side of legal, Otherwise we'll be blogging from pen (the other pen!)

It hurt my feelings to see that Updike book on e-bay!  O well, we can't control what happens to a gift...

Cheers and write on, Marilyn 

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Updike reviewer copies in the new yorker

Not too long ago there was a review of Updike's collected reviews in the New Yorker and the writer had gotten ahold of a lot of the books and wrote about how Updike marked them up. I forget how he got them--but it might shed some light on your great story.

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That's pretty shocking--

Hi Matthew,

   Thanks for your comment.  I'm distressed to hear this.  Argh.

   I cling to the memory of his generous offer to talk with the department--that wasn't in his contract.

   Best to you in your work!  Marilyn