Collecting John Updike’s Trash


Paul Moran began collecting John Updike’s trash in 2006, three years before the writer’s death. He found discarded photos, story drafts, and honorary degrees. The acquisition of curbside trash seems perfectly legal in Massachusetts, even if Updike and his wife took measures to dissuade Moran’s efforts. Nevertheless, the discarded material represents a legacy Updike either thought unimportant or wished to discard. The Atlantic explores Moran’s collection including a call to jury duty and residuals checks from The Simpsons, and what it means for writers to craft their posthumous legacy.

Ian MacAllen is the author of Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American (Rowman & Littlefield, April 2022). His writing has appeared in Chicago Review of Books, Southern Review of Books, The Offing, 45th Parallel Magazine, Little Fiction, Vol 1. Brooklyn, and elsewhere. He tweets @IanMacAllen and is online at More from this author →