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John Updike's Papers Go To College Near His Hometown

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ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Rabbit is running again, this time to a new home at Pennsylvania's Alvernia University.

The school in Reading announced Wednesday that it will house the scholarly archives of The John Updike Society, an organization that studies the life and work of the acclaimed chronicler of American suburbia whose prodigious output included "Rabbit, Run" and dozens of other novels, short stories, poems and essays.

Alvernia is also hosting the society's inaugural conference, beginning Friday, which is expected to draw scholars from around the world, three of Updike's children, his first wife and some of his high school classmates.

Born in Reading and raised in nearby Shillington, Updike won two Pulitzers, for "Rabbit Is Rich" and "Rabbit at Rest," and two National Book Awards. He died last year at the age of 76.

The main repository of Updike's papers is located at Harvard University, where the author graduated in 1954. Alvernia will house ancillary collections, including letters to high school classmates and memorabilia from Updike's early years.

Updike, for example, contributed more than 300 pieces to Chatterbox, the literary magazine at Shillington High School.

"It represents a great storehouse of information for any biographer concerned with Updike's early life and his development and a writer," said Updike expert Jack DeBellis, who was named Wednesday as Alvernia's first John Updike scholar in residence.

Alvernia's collection also includes Updike's elementary school desk and part of the chalkboard his father used when he taught math at Shillington High School.

Notable books by Updike include "The Centaur," "Couples," "In the Beauty of the Lilies," and "Too Far to Go."

The author received his greatest acclaim for the "Rabbit" series, a quartet of novels published over a 30-year span that featured ex-high school basketball star Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom and his adjustment to adulthood and the constraints of work and family.

The first novel in the series, "Rabbit, Run" – published 50 years ago – will be the focus of this weekend's conference.

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