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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. 

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