Jeremy Felt

Vivid Rye Whiskey In The Poorhouse Fair

Somewhere around page 85 of The Poorhouse Fair, Lucas brings a bottle of rye whiskey back from town to share with the other men at the subtle encouragement of the doctor, Angelo, some 60 pages earlier.

Gregg is the first to take a swig, which Updike describes as this:

As in the flavor of certain vegetable acres of bland rural landscape are contained, stone houses, fields, and grassy lanes, so this rasping hard taste flowered in Gregg’s mouth into high brick blank walls, streets of pocked asphalt bleeding in summer heat, the blue glint on corrugated iron where it is not rusted orange, the sun multiplied down a row of parked cars, tangerines pyramided behind plate glass, man-hole covers, filth in gutters, condoms discarded on windowsills and unpainted doorways scratched with wobby slogans like SCREW THE POPE.

Greg coughed and hawked. “Goddam Lucas, this is p. you’ve bought here.”

I must have read this passage 3 or 4 times in a row when I came across it. The words start off confusing, as you aren’t entirely sure where they’re taking you, but then your brain catches up and you find yourself in the midst of a wonderfully vivid description of the taste of bad whiskey.

A description, in fact, almost like the taste of bad whiskey itself.

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