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John Updike in Conversation with Jeffrey Goldberg

June 15, 2006

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John Updike lives in rural Massachusetts but he happened to be in New York on September 11, 2001 to witness the collapse of the Twin Towers from a top-floor apartment across the East River. "It was about the worst thing I'd ever seen," Updike said. Terrible though it was, "it's never struck me as something that couldn't be written about." His latest novel is a thriller about a "sympathetic terrorist," in the author's own words. Updike grew interested in how religious zealotry works on the mind of an otherwise decent young man. The main character in Terrorist is an 18-year-old Muslim convert who falls under the sway of a radical cleric in his gritty New Jersey hometown and gets caught up in a 9/11-type plot. Updike, a church goer, says religion can be both a threat to society and a solace to individuals. "I'm saying, it can be a very dangerous thing. On the other hand to have no faith is to live in an almost intolerably bleak universe. In any event I don't tend to push mottoes in my books. I try to illuminate, as best I can, sides of a puzzle."

Join John Updike for an evening of conversation with Jeffrey Goldberg, of the The New Yorker. Goldberg is the author of the forthcoming Prisoners: A Muslim and a Jew Across the Middle East Divide, to be published this October. He has spent a great deal of time over the past ten years with the leaders of Hamas, Hezbollah, the Taliban, al-Quaeda and Islamic Jihad.

Updike and Goldberg will talk about terrorism, the rise of apocalyptic and fundamental theology, and the role of fiction in the shadow of 9/11.

About John Updike

John Updike is a much-admired short-story writer as well as a novelist. Updike's most famous works are his Rabbit series? Rabbit, Run, Rabbit Redux, Rabbit Is Rich, Rabbit At Rest, and Rabbit, Remembered. Rabbit is Rich and Rabbit at Rest both won Pulitzer Prizes for Updike. Describing his subject as "the American small town, Protestant middle class", Updike is well known for his careful craftsmanship and prolific writing, having published 21 novels and more than a dozen short story collections as well as poetry, literary criticism and children's books. Hundreds of his stories, reviews and poems have appeared in The New Yorker since the 1950s. His works often explore sex, faith, death, and their interrelationship. Besides the Pulitzer, his novels have won the National Book Award, the American Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Rosenthal Award, and the Howells Medal. Still Looking: Essays on American Art, his second collection of art reviews, came out last year.

His new book is Terrorist: A Novel.


About Jeffrey Goldberg

Jeffrey Goldberg is the Washington correspondent of The New Yorker. He is the recipient of the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and of the Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize in 2005. Previously, he was a writer for The New York Times Magazine, New York Magazine, Forward, Jerusalem Post and The Washington Post. In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation and was appointed in 2002 to be a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.