Monday, May 12, 2014

Rabbit, Run, by John Updike

Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom is a 26-year-old former high school basketball star, longing for his former glory and unhappy in his life. He demonstrates kitchen gadgets to support his drunken pregnant wife Janice and two-year-old son Nelson. One day, he simply decides to run away; his former basketball coach sets him up with a woman named Ruth and, within 24 hours, she has allowed him to move in with her, despite the thoughtless and offensive way he treats her. Although he has no contact with his family for two months, the pastor at his wife's church finds him a new job as a gardener and attempts to counsel him. When Janice gives birth to their daughter, he moves back home and takes a job in one of his father-in-law's used car lots. Tragedy soon strikes, and Rabbit once again is on the run as the book ends.

I may have been the only prodigious reader of my age cohort who had not read any of the Rabbit books--in fact, I knew almost nothing of what the books were about. Consequently, I was somewhat surprised to find the title character (and almost everyone else who populates the book for that matter) to be utterly repellent. Rabbit is so masterfully drawn that I frankly fear his mode of thinking is typical of many male brains (please tell me it isn't true). I hated Rabbit so thoroughly, I'm not sure I can read the remaining three titles in the quartet despite Updike's wonderful descriptive powers (and despite Julian Barnes's claim that together the four form the greatest post-war American novel; see I realize caring too much for the "likability" of characters is not the most mature of responses to literature, so I will try to push on!

Favorite passages:
They've not forgotten him; worse, they've never heard of him.

But it is just two lovers, holding hands and in a hurry to reach their car, their locked hands a starfish leaping through the dark.

He has a sensation of touching glass. He doesn't know if they are talking about nothing or making code for the deepest meanings.

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