John Updike: Toward Evening


John Updike shaped the minutia of life into some kind of grand narrative. Arcing baseballs and neon signs for cooking fat weighed equally on his scale, along with the Tappan Zee Bridge, stars and evolution.

Riding over the bridge between Manhattan and Brooklyn, Colin Baker is transfixed by a curious set of lights on the skyline. He is reminded of a John Updike story he read when he was young ..


On a November Tuesday, the kind of blowy day that gives you earache, the sign was set in place by eighteen men, the youngest of whom would some day be an internationally known film actor. At three-thirty, an hour and a half before they were supposed to quit, they knocked off and dispersed, because the goddamn job was done. Thus the Spry sign (thus the river, the trees, thus babies and sleep) came to be.

Above its winking, the small cities had disappeared. The black of the river was as wide as that of the sky. Reflections sunk in it existed dimly, minutely wrinkled, below the surface. The Spry sign occupied the night with no company beyond the also uncreated but illegible stars.

~ “Toward Evening”, John Updike (1956)

Intelligent Life



~ by eaesthete on 01/30/09.

One Response to “John Updike: Toward Evening”

  1. Charlie Rose had a wonderful program on today with friends of Updike’s including his editor. What a gifted and extraordinary writer he was. His prose was lyrical and eloquent. I feel the need to envelope myself in his works all over again.

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