Sunday, February 1, 2009

John Updike and Robert Benchley

In 1997, John Updike wrote a book review for The New Yorker of Laughter’s Gentle Soul: The Life of Robert Benchley by Billy Altman. I had the distinct honor of being contacted by The New Yorker to verify some facts in Updike’s review. It is obvious that Updike was a fan of Benchley’s work. He says: “I was a keen consumer of popular culture when Benchley was a part of it. I sat in the local theatre and laughed at “The Courtship of the Newt” and “How to Take a Vacation”; I read through his collections—“20,000 Leagues under the Sea or David Copperfield,” “From Bed to Worse or Comforting Thoughts About the Bison”—marvelling at their impudence; I would have even stayed up to listen to his ten-o’clock-Sunday-night radio program, “Melody and Madness,” if my parents had let me.”

Updike’s full review may be found in the April 7, 1997 issue of The New Yorker, v. 73, issue 7, pp 88-94.

--Submitted by RBS Director, Gordon Ernst

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Robert Benchley Society

For more information about the Robert Benchley Society, local chapters near you, our annual Award for Humor, and our Annual Gathering, visit The RBS Website