A Late Homage to John Updike

If you missed it, the February 9 & 16 issue of The New Yorker offered representative samples of Updike’s over fifty years as a contributor of short stories, poetry, essays and criticism. This excerpt is from his memoir A Soft Spring Night in Shillington, in which he ruminates on the pleasure of finding close shelter from the rain.

Early in his life, the child I once was sensed the guilt in things, inseparable from the pain, the competition: the sparrow dead on the lawn, the flies swatted on the porch, the impervious leer of the bully on the school playground. The burden of activity, of participation, must clearly be shouldered, and had its pleasures. But they were cruel pleasures. There was nothing cruel about crouching in a shelter and letting phenomena slide by: it was ecstasy. The essential self is innocent, and when it tastes its own innocence knows that it lives forever. If we keep utterly still, we can suffer no wear and tear and will never die.


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