John Updike, the American master who won almost every literary prize, would be 80 years old this month. (He died in 2009.) To commemorate his work, Random House is re-issuing his books in handsome new paperback editions.
The series, starting with the “Rabbit” novels on March 13 ($16 each), will eventually include 46 new editions over the next two years. (Current paperbacks will go out of stock.) Along with bringing some of his books back into print, Random House will also release e-book editions of Updike’s backlist — 26 for the first time.
Senior editor Noah Eaker, the 29-year-old wunderkind who acquired Téa Obreht’s best-selling “The Tiger’s Wife,” is in charge of the project. “We’ve done our due diligence to make sure that everything is authoritative,” Eaker said by phone from his office in New York. “Mr. Updike was well known for going back and doing hand-written notes in his own library for corrections he’d like to make after publication. Most of them were eventually made as the books went back to press. Occasionally, though, they weren’t, and we’ve been able to do that now.” Updike’s widow, Martha, has also been working closely with Random House on this project.
The covers for the new editions sport a unified tone that harkens back to the original design of “Rabbit, Run,” first published in 1960. “They’ll all be variations on the stripe theme,” Eaker said.
While some other 20th-century giants seem to be fading away already, Updike’s work continues to attract a strong audience. Publishers don’t reissue 46 books just out of respect for their elders.
“Speaking as one young reader, more and more people my age are discovering him through the ‘Rabbit’ series,” Eaker said. “He’s going to be well read for years.”