John Updike

My sister was the literary one, editor of The Garnet and Gray.  As early as high school she subscribed to The New Yorker magazine, and I have also had the habit for most of my adult life.  From this, I enjoyed and matured along with frequent author John Updike whose main characters were usually men of his own age in Main-Line suburban Philadelphia, and, since we are the same age, about my age, too.  When I was in my early married years, then middle career years, and finally approaching retirement, so were his characters.  Now, in the February 27th issue, his character is describing his 55th high school reunion:

“Some came in wheelchairs, and some were too sick to drive and were chauffeured to the reunion by their middle-aged children.  The list of our deceased classmates on the back of the program grows longer; the class beauties are gone to fat or bony crone-hood; the sports stars and non-athletic alike move about with the aid of pacemakers and plastic knees, retired and taking up space at an age when most of our fathers were considerately dead.

“But we don’t see ourselves that way, as lame and old.  We see kindergarten children—the same round fresh faces, the same cup ears, and long-lashed eyes.  We hear the gleeful shrieking during elementary school recess and the seductive saxophones and muted trumpets of the homebred swing bands that serenaded the blue-lit gymnasium during high-school dances.  We see in each other the enduring simplicities of a town rendered changeless by Depression and then by a world war whose bombs never reached us, though rationing and toy tanks and air-raid drills did.  Old rivalries are rekindled and put aside; old romances flare for a moment and subside into the general warmth, the diffuse love.  When the class secretary . . ., her luxuriant head of chestnut curls now whiter than bleached laundry, takes the microphone and runs us through a quiz on the old days—teacher’s nicknames, the names of vanished luncheonettes and ice-cream parlors, the titles of our junior and senior plays, the winner of the scrap drive in third grade—the answers shout out on all sides.  Not one piece of trivia stumps us; we were there, together, then, and the spouses . . . good-naturedly applaud so much long-hoarded treasure of useless knowing.”


About Roger Walck

My reasons for writing this blog are spelled out in the posting of 10/1/2012, Montaigne's Essays. They are probably not what you think.
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