Updike's essays on art shouted out to me from the window of Waterstones-that-used-to-be-Dillons. On making my way to the remainders section in the far reaches of the basement, I was delighted to see that every page spread had at least one and up to three colour pictures. Words-only essays on art are all very well if you already know a lot about art and can remember the works they discuss (or have the internet to hand), but how much better to be able to gaze at the work, right there on the page!
Right there at the start is a touching photo, taken by his mother, of the nine year old Updike reading -
... so of course you're drawn in to reading about the photo, the boy ... and right there is unexpected fuel for my Home project:
the site ... was one of my favorite places in the world: the side porch of the house [that] belonged to my maternal grandparents; due to the exigencies of the Depression my parents and I lived there as well. On this long side porch, half of whose length stretches out of sight to my right, I would play by myself or with others - setting up grocery stores out of orange creates and crayoned paper fruit, making cozy homes out of overturned wicker porch furniture. A grape arbor extended outward from the porch roof, throwing its dazzling dapple down upon the steps and a brick patio where ants usily came and went between the cracks. The grapevine's tendrils curled with such intricacy that I imagined they would spell the entire alphabet if I looked hard enough.
He goes on about the kitchen, canning, how household items became toys, brooms, sweeping and other rituals, his mother's camera, and the book he's reading in the photo: Mickey Mouse in The Treasure Hunt, 1941 - a Big Little Book, "chunky little volumes sold for ten cents, made of single panels from a comic strip opposite a short page of narrative text. My transition from wanting to be a cartoonist to wanting to be a writer may have come about through that friendly opposition that even-handed pairing, of pictures and words."
Buying books rather goes against my "project" of getting rid of books, but this one was irresistible, and reminds me that I may have another book of Updike's essays somewhere among the old paperbacks that are mostly destined for giving away; I remember reading one of the essays at random when much younger, perhaps still at university ... but not what it was about ... though it did lead to more reading of Updike and of essays.
The purchase of these essays spurred me on to de-select a few more books ... goodbye ...