U and I

From e-mail from me to Nicholson Baker back in November:

… my John Updike story.

When I graduated from high school in 1958 (and was going on to Princeton), I went looking for a job, and tried the Reading Eagle newspaper (in Reading PA), since I’d been a hot high school newspaper kid. Turns out they had a copyboy position open and sent me around to interview for it.

I was interviewed by every fuckin senior editor, at some length. Then got the job, and quickly was shifted to being a reporter (a “floater”, as in Calvin Trillin’s comic novel of the same name). Eventually I asked one of the editors why everybody had interviewed me and was told that they’d passed me on from one to another because I struck them all as being so much like John Updike, who’d been their copyboy when he was an undergrad at Harvard.

So in a way John Updike got me my first job. (Updike grew up in Shillington, a couple of miles away from where I grew up, in West Lawn and Wyomissing.)

(Did write Updike about this, but of course he didn’t answer.)

Baker and I were exchanging mail (and talking on the phone) about which as a restrictive relativizer. So why was I telling him my John Updike story?

Because Baker is the author of the remarkable U and I, described back in November in Wikipedia this way:

U and I: A True Story (1991) is a non-fiction study of how a reader engages with an author’s work: partly an appreciation of John Updike, and partly a kind of self-exploration. Rather than giving a traditional literary analysis, Baker begins the book by stating that he will read no more Updike than he already has up to that point. All of the Updike quotations used are presented as coming from memory alone, and many are inaccurate, with correct versions and Baker’s (later) commentary on the inaccuracy given in brackets.

From the publisher’s copy:

Baker has constructed a remarkable edifice that is at once a tribute to Updike and a disarmingly, often hilariously frank self-examination — a work that lays bare both the pettiest and the most exalted transactions between writers and their readers.


2 Responses to “U and I”

  1. Jeezamarooni « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] in my Jeezum crow posting), which came up in a re-reading of Nicholson Baker’s U and I (see here), twice — first in writing about an imagined dialogue with John Updike on the golf course, […]

  2. Centurians and centaurians « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] of the first edition, which I own a copy of. For more discussion of Updike, see my posting on Nicholson Baker’s U and […]

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