Literary Lampoons Part II: Golf and Politics – Not Quite Death and Taxes, but Close

Special note: This blog post was written by Edward Reges, M.A. ‘16, East Carolina University Department of English, as part of a special series highlighting the Stuart Wright Collection.

Sometimes, the lives of authors can seem as distant to us as the hole on a long, hazardous par 5. One need only peer into a literary anthology to find oneself immersed in a strange world of antiquated terms, ideas, and even settings. Take John Updike’s renowned short story “A&P,” for example. In the story, a young man makes a rash decision to leave his job after his manager forces three young women, clad in only two-piece bathing suits, to leave the store. “What’s an A&P?” I recall a classmate of mine inquiring in a class discussion of our assigned readings. The question was not a literal one; we had all read the story and could draw from context what the A&P was. Rather, it was a commentary on how rapidly change occurs and how quickly our memories can glaze over what was once a staple of our predecessor’s culture. The short story, written just over 50 years ago, takes place in what was at the time one of the largest supermarket chains in the United States. Now the mere existence of a supermarket other than Wal-Mart, Target, or even K-Mart (which may be antiquated as you are reading this article) is the stock of a joke playing on our short-term view of existence. (For those seeking more information about A&P supermarkets, the company’s website has an interesting history section.)

Likewise, authors and poets of yesteryear seem accordingly distant from us. Creators of fiction such as John Updike seem to be of a different breed. A breed that survived and even thrived without all of the technology we now take for granted. These authors have an air of mythos: an air that a bit of digging in a literary archive, however, proves unwarranted.
Nestled away in the Stuart Wright Collection at Joyner Library are windows into the lives of these very human authors of yesteryear. While Updike is known for his writing prowess, he was not born a writer or a historical character; he was born a man. A man who, incidentally, once aspired to doodle for a living. Several original pen-and-ink drawings as well as Updike’s newspaper copies of published cartoons found their home in the collection of Stuart Wright, Updike’s friend and golfing companion. They are now available for view in the North Carolina Collections area on the third floor of Joyner Library.

Looking through these inked drawings, the difference between our predecessors and us seems to shrink. One of Updike’s cartoons references a troubling time in U.S. History. Following WWII, Germany was divided amongst the allies into East and West Germany. The nation’s capital, Berlin, located in Soviet occupied East Germany, was likewise divided. The situation grew tense when East Germany denied land access between West Germany and West Berlin. A decade later, President Eisenhower found himself in a rough situation when the Soviets demanded that western allied forces leave Berlin:

Updike, John. “The Rough.” Undated. Stuart Wright Collection. Stuart Wright Collection. J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, N.C.

Compare this to a modern political cartoon depicting President Obama sinking into the sand trap of world crisis:

Varvel, Gary. “Obama, golf, and world crisis.” Cartoon. Indystar. Gannett, 28 Aug. 2014. Web. 19 Sept. 2014

Varvel, Gary. “Obama, golf, and world crisis.” Cartoon. Indystar. Gannett, 28 Aug. 2014. Web. 19 Sept. 2014

As you can see, the pastime of golf serves as a bridge between the distant past and present, if not in reality then at least in political cartoons. As Updike used humor and a pastime to voice his concern about political affairs, so do those of us in modern society.
Updike’s love for golf proves to be an unexpectedly relevant part of ECU’s collection of his materials. This is evidenced in Stuart Wright’s personal copy of “Golf Dreams,” complete with a dedication to Wright from the author himself. Tucked away in the pages one finds a number of letters expressing Updike’s delight in playing the game and his companionship with Wright. Several scorecards record the friendship match by match.

Updike, John. Untitled Scorecard. Ludlow Addition to Stuart Wright Collection. Stuart Wright Collection. J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, N.C. 22 May 1987

As you can see, John Updike was not just some far away author creating literature to enjoy from a detached modern viewpoint. He was a man who could revel in a game of golf to the point of solidifying his appreciation of the contest on the scorecard: “what a match!” More cartoons, bridges to the present and past, and glimpses into Updike’s life can be located and requested by using the Special Collections Finding Aid to his papers.

Literary Lampoons: The Cartoonist Ambitions of a Great American Writer

Special note: This blog post was written by Bryant Scott, M.A. ’14, East Carolina University Department of English, as part of a special series highlighting the Stuart Wright Collection.

In a review of Updike, Adam Begley’s new biography of the beloved American writer, Orhan Pamuk writes that, “in a way, what Melville did for whales, Updike did for upper-middle-class life in suburban America: He produced partly allegorical realist novels containing an encyclopedic array of the thousands of facets of human experience, all collected with loving attention to his subject matter.”

What is less known about one of the great writers of his generation is that long before John Updike began semi-autobiographically chronicling the anguish of American middle-class torpidity, he aspired to be, in his words, “the next Walt Disney.” In fact, as a youth he wrote frequently to his cartoonist heroes, stylized his artwork after theirs, and even modeled notable protagonists after aspiring cartoonists.

Newly added to the Stuart Wright Collection in Joyner Library is a modest yet exclusive supply of Updike material. Among the annotated manuscripts, personal notebooks, and correspondence is a wealth of sketches, drawings, political cartoons, various works published in the Harvard Lampoon and local newspapers, and other original art that expose the famous writer’s earliest ambitions—to be a great cartoonist.

The collection ranges from figure drawings to newsprint, spanning roughly the decade in which Updike was emerging as a major American writer.  At Harvard, Updike was in full form on the editorial board of the Harvard Lampoon, where, alongside poems and longer articles, he published cartoons frequently. The image below, from Updike’s own marked-up copy of the Harvard Lampoon, for instance, showcases an early bit of Updike’s sense of social irony.

Updike, John. Harvard Lampoon. Feb. 1954. Stuart Wright Collection. J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, N.C.

Augmenting these Lampoon editions, in the 50s and 60s Updike published frequently in newspapers, as is shown in the following example from the Amesbury Daily News. Here, as is typical of his cartoons, Updike displays political and social acuity at a young age.

Updike, John. Amesbury Daily News. June 21, 1958. Stuart Wright Collection. J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, N.C.

As seen above, these cartoons also nicely showcase the political environment of the time, often exposing the underlying social fears of a nation in the midst of the Cold War.

Interestingly, the collection houses various doodles and sketches that show the evolution of an Updike cartoon from brief sketches to prints to published cartoons, as is shown through the sequence of Nixon and Kennedy cartoons below. The first image is an undated pencil sketch from Updike’s composition notebooks while at Harvard, the second is an original pen and ink cartoon (one of many in the collection) that Updike submitted to the Amesbury Daily News, and the published cartoon is the third image below.

Updike, John. Personal composition notebook. Undated. Stuart Wright Collection. J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, N.C.
Kennedy: “What the American vision needs is a vision of a vision—more homes for our senior citizens. More schools for our junior citizens—I call all citizens to greatness! Hurrah!”
Nixon: “I, for one, thank the dear lord for the strength that enabled me to stand up to Khruschev [sic], and for the wonderful leadership provided by that master among men, Dwight David Now-is-the-Hour! Whee!”

Updike, John. Original Drawing. Undated. Stuart Wright Collection. J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, N.C


Updike, John. Amesbury Daily News. August 23, 1960. Stuart Wright Collection. J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, N.C.


Introducting a Series of Guest Blog Posts

During the Fall 2014 semester, we will be hosting a special series of guest blog posts promoting the Stuart Wright Collection at J.Y. Joyner Library. These posts, written by graduate students and faculty in ECU’s Department of English, highlight items of special interest in this unique literary collection, which came to ECU in 2010. Among the treasures held in the collection, you’ll find letters between Eudora Welty and Robert Penn Warren, drawings by Maurice Sendak, and, as the blog’s first post showcases, cartoons created by the young John Updike. We hope the blog sparks your interest in the Stuart Wright Collection. You’re invited to:

*Explore digital images of collection items.

*Browse finding aids for each author in the Stuart Wright Collection.

*Read the story of the Stuart Wright Collection.

*See the exhibit, Stuart Wright: A Life in Collecting.

*Visit the collection’s home in the Special Collections Reading Room on Joyner’s 3rd floor.

*Learn more about using the collection for research and teaching by asking a special collection librarian

Der Bat Artist / Maurice Sendak RIP

Source: Stuart Wright Collection – Randall Jarrell Papers #1169-005.6.u

Staff Person: Jonathan Dembo


Poet Randall Jarrell collaborated on three children’s books with illustrator Maurice Sendak: Fly by Night (1976), The Animal Family (1965) and The Bat-Poet (1964). Of the three, The Bat-Poet has always been my favorite.  Shortly before publication of The Bat Poet, in 1964, Sendak sent this undated letter to Jarrell.  In place of a signature, Sendak signed his letter with a characteristically charming and tiny pen & ink cartoon of himself in the guise of “Der Bat Artist” flourishing his brush in hand (or foot) and about to create.  The miniature drawing perfectly captures the spirit of Jarrell’s poetic hero, who, like a real human child, tale is just so eager and sweet and shy and curious, yet manages all this without being too cloying. The small bat wants to know things, and then he wants to sing, and when that doesn’t work, he begins to make up poems, trying to express himself. He sets out to explore the day world, for example, and he gets a creative crush on the vain yet talented mockingbird. Little by little, he puts his observations into words.  When he received Sendak’s letter, Jarrell filed it carefully inside his copy of The Bat Poet, where it remained until Joyner Library acquired it in 2010.

This post is in honor of Maurice Sendak who died on 8 May 2012 in Danbury, Connecticut at age 83.

The Lost Children a poem by Randall Jarrell



Source: #1169.5 Wright Collection/ Randall Jarrell Papers, East Carolina Manuscript Collection

Staff Person: Lynette Lundin 


The Randall Jarrell Papers are dated 1913 to 1989. The manuscript collection includes correspondence, essays, manuscripts, printed poems, notes, original art, AV materials and books. He was an American poet of distinction, author and educator. Some of his notable instructors in college were Robert Penn Warren, Allen Tate, and John Crowe Ransom.

The newspaper article is from The Carolinian, dated October 22, 1965. The review was written by Dr Robert Watson of Jarrell’s book “The Lost World.” The article has excerpts from the book and the poem “The Lost Children and a brief biography.

Richard Eberhart photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson

Source: Stuart Wright Book Collection Printed Works Inventory #46-18
Staff Person: Ralph Scott
Description: Henri Cartier-Bresson [1908-2004] was a French photographer that pioneered modern photojournalism. Early to try the new 35mm Leica format, Cartier-Bresson is famous for his street scene photographs and portraits of individuals. He felt that the new compact camera format enabled him to stroll the streets ready to “trap life,” on film. This candid of Richard Eberhart [1904-2005] an American poet who won the 1966 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, is attributed to Henri Cartier-Bresson. Cartier-Bresson travelled to the United States several times and moved in literary circles throughout the world. His first American show was in 1935, at the New York Julien Levy Gallery. At some point his path crossed with that of Eberhart. The photograph was found in a volume recently acquired by Joyner Library through purchase from Eberhart’s literary agent, Stuart Wright.

Merrill Moore X-Ray


Source: Stuart Wright Rare Book Collection 59-23

Staff Person: Ralph Scott

Description: X-Ray photograph of Merrill Moore, author of The Noise that Time Makes. Photograph is captioned “because his poems are chiefly about time Mr. Moore thought the x-ray more appropriate than the ephemeral face.” Photograph is inscribed to John Crowe Ransom.