Kerry Michael Wood critique
Pearl Avenue is the road to riches. It is accessible from the local high school where basketball players can begin making a name for themselves. Notice how all the verbs and one noun double as basketball terminology: runs. . .bends. . .stops. . .cut off. . .blocks. It faces not the rising sun of the east but westward.
What a well-chosen name for our protagonist. Flick captures that delicate fingertip touch that good shooters are blessed with. Webb suggests the delicacy along with a basketball net, and combined with Flick the nickname and surname evoke the sight and sound of a “swisher” or successful shot that doesn’t touch the rim.
However, Flick’s road to riches and stardom is stopped, blocked, cut off not at Madison Square Garden but at Berth’s garage. Let’s see why.
Flick’s post-high school teammates are stationary gasoline pumps arranged in aisles. Appropriately, they are 5 on each side. We have to think back quite a few years to when gas pumps had round heads like bubbles and registered price and amount. The rubberized hoses were (and still are) like elbows. The letters spell out the defunct brand name Esso. The squat, football type is perhaps an air or water dispenser as they were located in service stations of days gone by.
Flick was not a student. Like so many gifted athletes, he was sure his prowess with a rubber ball would assure him fame, success, wealth, and comfort. But no. For one reason or another, he peaked early and had no skills to fall back on. He is a gas station attendant of the days when such employees actually filled tanks, checked oil, and washed windows. His delicate touch and manual dexterity are wasted on the lug wrench, and it is pathetic to see him dribbling an inner tube.
His after-work hours are not devoted to personal appearances and autograph signings. Instead it’s Mae’s luncheonette, where those magical hands do their thing on a pinball machine. The concluding metaphor is a brilliant touch by Updike, who loves words and whom words love. Flick stares at the rows and rows of candy on Mae’s candy rack and imaginatively coverts them into bleacher seats packed with cheering fans in whatever professional sports arena you want to imagine.
A wonderful poem about a figure all of us have known. The star athlete who reaches his peak in high school and has nothing to fall back on.
The main idea of John Updike’s poem, Ex-Basketball Player is that a young man named Flick who was a really good athlete in high school. However, after high school he became nothing more than a gas station attendant. During high school he was an excellent basketball player. He set records that many kids are still trying to surpass today. During and after high school he never learned a trade, so