Short Stories All the Time

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... a few of my thoughts about 900, mostly contemporary, short stories.
Showing posts with label Updike. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Updike. Show all posts

27 June, 2014

John Updike, "Plumbing"

This first person story begins with a plumber making a repair which evokes memories of a man's family history like "... a circle of stony layers thin as rolled-up paper."

"Plumbing" is included in John Updike: The Early Stories 1953-1975.

Wikipedia page about John Updike

15 June, 2014

John Updike, "Walter Briggs"

"Walter Briggs" at less than six full pages shows Jack and Claire on a late night drive home from some sort of party. Their two-year old daughter, Jo, plays a song game with Claire while the baby son slept in his car seat. The first sign of trouble in the marriage is "This game, Who's Best?, was one of their few devices for whiling away enforced time together." The game begins with Jack asking Claire, "Who did you like best at the party?" Childish question showing Jack's shallow and insecure nature. They have some discussion about who was best at the party with an argument framed inside the game of who's best.  Langmuir, selected as best by Claire, understood what Claire meant about Sherman Adams and Jack says, "it's just that everybody saw that it was beside the point." Claire states back to Jack, "It wasn't." It's obvious that he didn't back up his wife's opinion at the party in front of a group of people and he still refuses to concede her any point. [Sherman Adams was Chief of Staff for Eisenhower and fired under some scandal, Governor of NH, and US House Representative]

"Claire laughed abruptly, at something she had thought of" and changes the contest slightly to trying to remember the names of the people from the YMCA family camp. They discuss many of these people with each of them remembering first or last names until neither one of them can remember Walter's last name. Jack even seems jealous that "She always heard the breakfast bell, though it rang far away."

They arrive home. Put the children to bed. Jack remembers that at the summer camp he read Don Quixote during every half-hour break and while Claire "made the bed." Jack cried at the end of the book "when Sancho pleads with his at last sane master to rise from his deathbed and lead another quest." Maybe Jack wanted another quest. He wasn't happy that he was married? Then he remembers the last name of Walter and whispers it to Claire as though he wanted the last word. "He lifted himself on his elbow and called 'Claire' softly, knowing he wouldn't wake her, and said, 'Briggs, Walter Briggs.'"

Published in 1962 in Pigeon Feathers and Other Stories and possibly before that in The New Yorker.