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Q&A: David Updike

John Updike’s son is forging his own diverse bibliography with ”Old Girlfriends”

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As John Updike’s son, David Updike might have a lot to live up to, but the 52-year-old teacher and writer is forging a diverse bibliography of his own. Already the author of a short-story collection and several children’s books, Updike will release his second set of tales, Old Girlfriends, on July 21.

Though Girlfriends primarily focuses on relationships, cars seem to play a large part in nearly every story.
I noticed that too. I’m sure there’s a Freudian explanation. But it was really just — I’m not going to say a coincidence — but it’s something that happened. It was subconscious and surprising to me.

Some of your stories address racism and interracial relationships, which are both topics you explored in your 2006 novel, Ivy’s Turn.
It’s something I used to think about more because of my marriage, and [because] my son is biracial. I wrote some essays about it and at [one] point tried to compile them into a collection. But now we’re in a somewhat different age. Not because of Obama, but because the next generation — my son’s generation — has a whole different take on the race thing. We are a more multicultural society. And maybe it’s time for me to let his generation think and write about it.

A lot of your stories also involve adultery or infidelity.
I think it just happened through being older and being married for quite a long time. It’s a recurrent adult theme. I know my father has written a lot about it, but it didn’t have much to do with him. I see the stories as being about relationships — about being a father, a son, a husband, in all its complexity and imperfection.

I imagine some of them would be unsettling for your wife to read.
There are some I would rather her read than others. On the other hand, it is fiction. So I guess we’ll leave it at that.

You dedicated Old Girlfriends to your parents. Did your father ever help you with your writing?
I didn’t ask him to, but I would point out if something got published and he would invariably read it quickly and write back quickly something positive and encouraging. He was an excellent proofreader, so if you gave him anything with typos, he would find them and compile a very exacting list in his letter of the things you needed to fix.