A man who used to bicycle past the late author John Updike’s Massachusetts home got in the habit of poaching the scribe’s garbage. What treasures he collected over the years–at least treasures as measured by some bibliophiles and Rabbit rousers. For some people any scrap of thought from the master prose stylist has value, even if it’s got coffee grinds on it. Updike was famously prolific and choosy–a difficult balance to maintain–and his garbage was his writing partner. It held his secrets, or so he must have thought. But his garbage didn’t end up where yours does. For Paul Moran, that bicyclist, Updike’s garbage became a passion.
Adrienne LaFrance tells the story of Moran and, in a way, of Updike through the detritus, in The Atlantic. There hasn’t been a better I went through a man’s garbage story since deranged fans used to pillage Bob Dylan‘s discards in Woodstock. Updike donated his own scraps and ephemera–as well as real manuscripts–to his alma mater, Harvard.