Posted in Short Stories

John Updike: Snowing in Greenwich Village (Deal Me In 2017 – Week 44)

5♦ 5♦ 5♦ 5♦ 5♦ 5♦ 5♦ 5♦

Wonderful Town

Richard’s suspicion on the street that he was trespassing beyond the public gardens of courtesy turned to certain guilt.

John Updike’s “Snowing in Greenwich Village” is a masterpiece in nuance, subtlety and unspoken tension. I don’t know why I want to keep making fun of it. Perhaps I keep thinking about the moment when Richard offers his guest, Rebecca, some cashews. This small gesture occupies at least a couple of paragraphs. Perhaps it’s because when Richard’s wife, Joan, insists on Richard walking Rebecca home because it’s snowing (hence the title), I want to shake my head and say “Joan, Joan, Joan…poor, naive Joan”.

At the same time, I have to ask myself the question that maybe Joan isn’t as naive as I initially think. Published in 1956, maybe Updike portrays a more “progressive” couple – or a couple with more problems than we initially understand. Given that the reader can notice the sexual tension between Richard and Rebecca without having it mentioned, maybe Joan can too. Maybe Joan doesn’t care if something happens with Richard and Rebecca. Joan’s thoughts in the story are more difficult to get to so I think she makes for the more intriguing character. As Richard walks Rebecca up the stairs to her apartment, the reader doesn’t have to wonder what his thoughts are. But that doesn’t mean that what the reader thinks is going to happen necessarily does.

In spite of the humor that I find in the story that I’m not sure is suppose to be there, I think this story could very easily end up on my top ten list at the end of the year. I read it when I selected the Five of Diamonds for Week 44 of my Deal Me In 2017 short story project. It’s included in my copy of Wonderful Town: New York Stories from the New Yorker edited by David Remnick. My Deal Me In list can be found here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

 

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