Driving through Paragraphs

June 18, 2009

posted by caroline picard

I enjoyed this passage, for the way it flattens out history, music, and commercialism, especially given that Rabbit, the listener, is sitting in a car, driving through the night. It is as if all that comprises his world is what he hears.

What follows is an excerpt from


by John Updike


It takes him a half-hour to pick his way through Lancaster. On 222 he drives south through Refton, Hessdale, New Providence, and Quarryville, through Mechanics Grove and Unicorn, and then a long stretch so dull and unmarked he doesn’t know he’s entered Maryland until he hits Oakwood. On the radio he hears “No Other Arms, No Other Lips,” “Stagger Lee,” a commercial for Radio-Controlled Garage Door Operators, “I Ran All the Way Home Just to Say I’m Sorry,” “That Old Feeling” by Mel Torme, a commercial for Big Screen Westinghouse TV Set with One-finger Automatic Tuning “needle-sharp pictures a nose away from the screen,” “The Italian Cowboy Song,” “Yep” by Duane Eddy, a commercial for Papermate Pens, “Almost Grown,” a commercial for Tame Cream Rinse, “Let’s Stroll,” news (President Eisenhower and Prime Minister Harold Macmillan begin a series of talks in Gettysburg, Tibetans battle Chinese Communists in Lhasa, the whereabouts of Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of this remote and backward land, are unknown, a $25,000 trust fund has been leeft to a Park Avenue maid, Spring scheduled to arrive tomorrow), sports news (Yanks over Braves in Miami, somebody tied with somebody in St. Petersburg Open, scores in a local basketball tournament), weather (fair and seasonably warm), “The Happy Organ,” “Turn Me Loose,” a commercial for Schuylkill Life Insurance, “Rocksville, P-A” (Rabbit loves it), “A Picture No Artist Could Paint,” a commercial for New Formula Barbasol Presto-Lather, whose daily cleansing action tends to prevent skin blemishes and emulsifies somthing, “Pink Shoe Laces” by Dody Steves, a word about a little boy called Billy Tessman who was hit by a car and would appreciate cards or letters, “Petit Fleur,” “Fungo” (great), a commercial for Wool-Tex All-Wool Suits,” “Fall Out” by Henry Mancini, “Everybody Like To Cha Cha Cha,” a commercial for Lord’s Grace Table Napkins and the gorgeous Last Supper Tablecloth, “The Beat of My Heart,” a commercial for Speed-Shine Wax and Lanolin Clay, “Venus,” and then the same news again. Where is the Dalai Lama?


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