I met John Updike in 1980, at a PEN/New England gathering. I was shocked to see him–I’d never met a writer before. I overheard him telling Tim O’Brien the writer that he wanted to play golf that week and would Tim be interested? Tim said yes. They needed another for a foursome,and I introduced myself, and was accepted. Thus began decades of at least once a week golf, and then, since we lived near him on the North Shore of Boston, a social life with him and his wife–celebrating each birthday of the foursome together.
Over the years, I would say we became best friends. Not that John would show much feeling, really, but I would often ask him to read something I was working on, and he’d talk about his work–and he used a character named “Toby Bergman, editor of the local paper in Witches of Eastwick, who “breaks his leg” (Bergman my real name) and in my next novel, The Spirit of the Place, there was, in return, one “Toby Updike, editor of the local paper, who breaks his leg.” Marvelous man.
In a rough time, when he hadn’t heard from me in a while, he would always call–to talk about golf, or when we could next lunch at the Harvard Faculty Club (I was a member and they had a great buffet). He scheduled the next drop-off of a few cartons of his memorabilia at the Houghton Library just across the street, so it was convenient. I have this photo on my desk, of him and me in golf gear. I miss him to this day.
And please join us @ the book launch for At the Heart of the Universe:
Samuel Shem in conversation with Adam Pertman, Adoption Nation, and with Katie Surrey-Bergman and Janet Surrey. At Soho Playhouse, 14 Vandam Street, NYC. November 14, Monday at from 7 to 8:45. Free.