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Updike on Conclusions

Patricia Sullivan

Like many who subscribe to the New Yorker, I habitually fall behind reading them. That's why I was reading through the March 16 issue last night when I came upon a collection of poems by John Updike, who died Jan. 27, called "Endpoint."

It's a remarkable collection, and I understand it will come out as a book next month. In it, Updike reflects on his declining health last year in his crystalline prose. This (snippet of) one struck me particularly:

Oblong Ghosts
Nov. 6, 2008
A wakeup call? It seems that death has found
the portals it will enter by: my lungs,
pathetic oblong ghosts, one paler than
the other on the doctor's viewing screen.
Looking up "pneumonia," I learn
it can, like an erratic dog, turn mean
and snap life short for someone under two
or "very old (over 75)."

Updike was 76, and died of lung cancer.

You have to be a magazine subscriber to read the New Yorker online so I can't give our blog readers a link. For now, it's worth looking up at your local library.

By Patricia Sullivan  |  March 25, 2009; 12:54 PM ET
Categories:  Patricia Sullivan  
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