Monday, January 9, 2012


My father relaxes by playing solitaire.  Over the holidays, coming into the kitchen on a Sunday afternoon and seeing him carefully studying his pack of bent, often-shuffled cards, I thought of a story by John Updike.  The first paragraph is excerpted here.

The children were asleep, and his wife had gone out to a meeting; she was like his father in caring about the community.  he found the deck of cards in the back of a desk drawer and sat down at the low round table.  He had reached a juncture in his life where there was nothing to do but play solitaire.  It was the perfect, final retreat--beyond solitaire, he imagined, there was madness.  Only solitaire utterly eased the mind; only solitaire created that blankness into which a saving decision might flow.  Conviviality demanded other people, with their fretful emanations of desire; reading imposed the author's company; and one emerged from the anesthetic of drunkenness to find that the operation had not been performed.  But in the rise and collapse of the alternately colored ranks of cards, in the grateful transpositions and orderly revelations and unexpected redemptions, the circuits of the mind found an occupation exactly congruent with their own secret structure.  The mind was filled with being strained.

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