Updike, John (1932-2009) Signed by John Updike and Ted Williams. Northridge, California: Lord John Press, 1977.
Limited edition, copy number ninety-four of 300, in publisher's half cloth, patterned paper boards, 10 x 6 1/2 in.
The answer to why you might choose to buy the Library of America's slim volume of John Updike on Ted Williams comes down to personal preference, convenience, sentimentality, maybe even aesthetics. The essay is special because it succeeds on so many levels. Its pages offer a sharp character study. It lyrically captures a moment of grace. It imparts an essential moral lesson. To use the hackneyed metaphor, it is a small gem. Think of Duke Ellington's description of Ella Fitzgerald: "beyond category." The quality-conscious publishers at The Library of America respect good writing and have taken care to design the book, simply as a physical object, to be a pleasing product to hold in your hands.
We spoke over lunch last month about Updike and women, Updike and Philip Roth, Updike and Ted Williams and that scathing David Foster Wallace review that Begley assigned at the New York Observer. The interview has been lightly edited and condensed.