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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

In Memoriam: John Updike

Posted By on Tue, Jan 27, 2009 at 4:04 PM

click to enlarge updike012709.jpg
As a perpetually aspiring novelist, I must mention the passing of the great John Updike. Here is a passage from maybe his best-known short story, "A & P".

(You knew there would be a food angle, right?)

The narrator is a cashier at the titular supermarket, watching three girls in bathing suits shop:
She kept her eyes moving across the racks, and stopped, and turned so slow it made my stomach rub inside of my apron, and buzzed to the other two, who kind of huddled against her for relief, and then they all three of them wet up the cat-and-dog-food-breakfast-cereal-macaroni-rice-raisins-seasonings-spreads-spaghetti-soft-drinks-crackers-and-cookies aisle. From the third slot I look straight up this aisle to the meat and the cookies, and I watched them all the way. The fat one with the tan sort of fumbled with the cookies, but on second thought she put the package back. The sheep pushing their carts down the aisle -- the girls were walking against the usual traffic (not that we have one-way signs or anything) -- were pretty hilarious. You could see them, when Queenie's white shoulders dawned on them, kind of jerk, or hop, or hiccup, but their eyes snapped back to their own baskets and on they pushed. I bet you could set off dynamite in an an A & P and the people would by and large keep reaching and checking oatmeal off their lists and muttering, "Let me see, there was a third thing, began with A, asparagus, no, ah, yes, applesauce!" or whatever it is they do mutter. But there was no doubt, this jiggled them. A few houseslaves in pin curlers even looked around after pushing their carts past to make sure what they had just seen was correct.

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