Updike Aloud: The Late Podcasts

John Updike (1932-2009) was such an enormous presence in 20th century American letters it's hard to imagine him silenced after 76 years--he should have lived at least as long as Saul Bellow (90 years).  But of course he isn't silenced, because we have his written works, and thanks to The New York Times, we also have two late recordings.  His spoken language flows as smoothly as his prose and has the (listening) virtue of being less ornate.  The most comprehensive portrait emerges in a career-encompassing "Times Talks" podcast (also on iTunes) with Chip McGrath, writer-at-large for the NYT.  There's also a short video with Sam Tanenhaus, editor of the NYT Sunday Book Review, in which a dapper and genial Updike avows his allegiance to Barack Obama and discusses Rabbit's hypothetical political views for this era.  (How gratifying that Updike lived to see Obama elected.)

My friend Alex only recently recommended the "Times Talks" podcast to me, saying that in this conversation Updike was "forthcoming, honest, generous, large-visioned, and funny."  What a great oral legacy.

Updike was also captured on audio in 2006 by Edward Champion on his Bat Segundo Show (Episode #50).  Don't be misled by the irreverent title--it's a very thoughtful interview.  The premise is Updike's novel The Terrorist, and Champion wields it deftly to draw Updike out on deeper literary and socio-political topics, including, of course, the literary depiction of sex, which Updike refers to at one point as "the love state."

Here are the links:

Podcast:  "Times Talks" Conversation between John Updike and Charles McGrath, Released 12/10/08 and recorded in October 2008 (I believe), 1:27:45.  A biography in 90 minutes. Available from the NYT's site (about ten listings down from the top as of this posting) or on iTunes:  Search iTunes Store for keywords "Times Talks," then click on feed arrow just after TimesTalks, and when you get the list scroll down to Episode 1 with the date 12/10/08.

Video:  A Conversation between John Updike and Sam Tanenhaus, October 2008, 4:26, available for viewing on the NYT video site.

Podcast:  The New Yorker has a "Remembering Updike" section with a podcast of David Remnick talking with Updike about his earliest days at the magazine, recorded at the 2005 New Yorker Festival (about an hour long, available for listening or download at the Book Bench site).  There are also reminiscences by other NYer fiction writers.

Podcast:  Bat Segundo Show #50, 7/14/06, 1:01:36.  Edward Champion interviews Updike about The Terrorist and alchemizes a broader conversation.  Racy alert:  not for listening to around young children, or bosses.

Podcast:  Updike's Speech at Book Expo America, 5/26/06, 19:51.  A paean to the bookstores of his youth, and a controversial commentary on author marketing trends and the future destructiveness of digitally chopped and blended text.

 The BBC News site also has a page of nice quotes from Updike (not a podcast).