Tuesday, January 27, 2009

John Updike, This Tan's for You

It's amazing how much those first influential reads really stick with you. For me, it was the A & P, one of many short stories written by the great, and now late, John Updike.

It was an assigned read for one of my early creative writing courses, taught by famed Texas writer, Ron Rozelle. He had a knack for these kinds of tales, even though they were a little much for most high schoolers.

Basically, it accounts one of those not-so-epic life experiences that are still so bitterly disillusioning. Sammy, a store clerk at the nostalgic grocery store chain, A & P, heroically resigns his job after three gorgeous, tanned, bikini-clad girls are reprimanded by the store owner for being inappropriately dressed.

I remember most that he described--in detail--the glowing half moon of white just under the girls' butt cheeks (yes, I said butt cheeks) where the sun failed to do a thorough job. Yeah, a not-so-subtle allusion to raging teen hormones.

Sammy's big gesture, however, leaves him empty-handed. When he ventures into the parking lot sans A & P official apron, the girls are gone. He is jobless with no damsel in distress to comfort him. His standing up to injustice got him nothing, not even a smile.

Yeah, it's a little bittersweet. A keen observer of the every day, Updike was. I'd say it was one of the first stories of its kind that I encountered. Previously, I'd been a fan of more dramatic literature. After a dose of Updike, I appreciated the pain, heroics, and greatness of those little poignant moments in everyday life. And I enjoyed reading about them when written as well as he wrote them.

So thanks, Mr. Updike, for making me--and many others, to be sure--a better reader, writer, and thinker.
(Photo courtesy of www.issuemanagement.net)

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