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Fiction

Rabbit, Run by John Updike

The novel opens, aptly enough, with a basketball game being played by a few children on a street in Mt. Judge – the suburban home of our hero, Harry Angstrom. Harry is nicknamed “Rabbit” for his awkward looks. He was once the star athlete of his high school, a great basketball player prized by his team and his coach, Marty Tothero. Now he is twenty-six, stuck in an unhappy marriage and an unfulfilling job selling kitchen gadgets.

At home, his newly pregnant wife, Janice, irritates him so much that when she sends him on an errand, Rabbit instinctively drives his car out of Mt. Judge and onto the interstate highway. He doesn’t know where he’s headed – he is only aware that he needs to escape. He makes it as far south as West Virginia before he finally turns around and heads home. Back in Mt. Judge, he joins Marty Tothero – now just as “washed-up” and as much of a “has-been” as Rabbit, having been fired years ago from his job at the high school due to a “scandal” – and hits the town with his former coach. He meets Ruth Leonard (semi-prostitute) on a double date with Marty, and winds up spending the night with her in her apartment. He grows very affectionate of her, and, though Ruth’s opinion of Rabbit fluctuates, the two live together for a solid two months.

During that time, the young local minister, Jack Eccles tries to do his part in saving Rabbit’s marriage. Originally set on his trail by Janice’s angry parents, Jack ends up befriending Rabbit, played golf together and sincerely trying to help him become a better person. Rabbit more or less dismisses Jack’s efforts, but when Janice finally goes into labor he hastily leaves Ruth and goes to the hospital. That night, after seeing Janice (and perhaps rediscovering his love for her), Rabbit feels as if he has started a new life. He thanks Eccles, and puts the affair with Ruth behind him.

The story took a few drastic bad turns towards the end, and Harry found himself into more mess than he can handles them and Harry does what he has always done best: he runs away.

Rating: 2/5

I made several false starts with the book. When I couldn’t delay it anymore I picked book up and read it. Around the middle of the book, I still couldn’t get into it.  I skimed read it, got the gist of what happened and it is just as well that I didn’t waste my time with the book, as Rabbit got more and more messed up in his life and the book ended with a cliff hanger, obviously schedule for a sequel and you have to read another 3 books about Rabbit’s entire life before the series concluded. Hmmm… I don’t think I like Harry Angstrom enough to read the series. 😦

I read this book only because I was looking for an author with the last name U for the A to Z Challenge. It’s a story about a loser called Harry Angstrom. I understand it has something to do with the era and social commentary for the time. I understand it is about a man running away from his troubles, about a town which condemned his action, and the question is if he is right to run away from it all. I wasn’t too keen about reading about loser, about the mess he created or facing the prospect of reading 2 or 3 more books of his life before finding out if he turns his life around.

This book is not for me. What about you? Have you read the book? What do you think about it? Did I miss something?

Paperback. [Penguin Books, 1960, 1995],[309 pages], Library Loot, Finished skim reading at 12 September 2010.

About the author:

John Hoyer Updike (March 18, 1932 – January 27, 2009) was an American novelist, poet, short story writer, art critic, and literary critic.

Updike’s most famous work is his Rabbit series (the novels Rabbit, RunRabbit ReduxRabbit Is RichRabbit At Rest; and the novella “Rabbit Remembered”) which chronicled the life of Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom over the course of several decades, from young adulthood to his death. Updike found the character so rich that he wrote a series of sequels following Harry through his life. For the next forty years, Updike wrote one sequel each decade, revisiting the character in 1971, 1981, 1990, and 2001. It’s heralded as a remarkable achievement in the literary world, and the second and third sequels each won a Pulitzer Prize, becoming one of only three authors (the others being Booth Tarkington and William Faulkner) to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction more than once. Updike published more than twenty novels and more than a dozen short story collections, as well as poetry, art criticism, literary criticism and children’s books.

Describing his subject as “the American small town, Protestant middle class”, Updike was well recognized for his careful craftsmanship, his unique prose style, and his prolificness. He wrote on average a book a year. Updike populated his fiction with characters who “frequently experience personal turmoil and must respond to crises relating to religion, family obligations, and marital infidelity.” His fiction is distinguished by its attention to the concerns, passions, and suffering of average Americans; its emphasis on Christian theology; and its preoccupation with sexuality and sensual detail. His work has attracted a significant amount of critical attention and praise, and he is widely considered to be one of the great American writers of his time. Updike’s highly distinctive prose style features a rich, unusual, sometimes arcane vocabulary as conveyed through the eyes of “a wry, intelligent authorial voice” that extravagantly describes the physical world, while remaining squarely in the realist tradition. Updike famously described his own style as an attempt “to give the mundane its beautiful due.”

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About JoV

A bookaholic that went out of control.... I eat, sleep and breathe books. Well, lately I do other stuff.

Discussion

7 thoughts on “Rabbit, Run by John Updike

  1. My husband loves Updike. From what he has shared with me though, it seems like his books would appeal more to males. The few passages my husband insisted I read that he thought were great, I found offensive! So I haven’t read any of his books. I am happy that you read this for me and let me know the plot, however, so I can feel like I know more about it! :–)

    Posted by rhapsodyinbooks | September 14, 2010, 4:31 pm
  2. I remember having to read this for my first year uni studies – hated it – it was one of the reasons I gave up studying English literature!

    Posted by bernadetteinoz | September 15, 2010, 12:34 am
  3. I’ve never been able to face reading Updike. Everything I read about him, definitely including this review!, sounds like I’d hate his books. But I sympathize with your U-author problem. I want to have a DVD beginning with every letter of the alphabet, and I have watched a lot of stupid movies beginning with Q, U, and V. Still no resolution on that front. :/

    Posted by Jenny | September 15, 2010, 3:59 pm
  4. I was just aiming to blog about this book, when I came across your post…

    I have to say that I, a female reader, am in disagreement with the above responses to the novel. John Updike, I think, has an amazing way of sharing a story, it goes beyond the simple one-sided narrative and goes deep into descriptive passages of the life around Rabbit (Harry Angstrom).

    Yes, Harry is an uncharacteristic hero, and I don’t know if I would characterize him as much in the first place. The beauty of the story is not in its fairy-tale ending, or fun loving characters, I think that it is more a testament of how the rest of us life, in comparison to happily ever after.

    I read this book last summer on the recommendation of a friend, and within the next 8 months I read the rest of the series, (Rabbit Reux, Rabbis is Rich, and Rabbit at Rest). Now, if you did not enjoy the story told in the first Rabbit novel, you probably won’t enjoy the others either, as they grow to be more aggressive in Rabbit’s bad taste and vulgarity.

    I love the series as a set. The following novel, Rabbit Redux, takes place ten years later. It does not act to solve the mysteries left behind in the over novels, but brings new trials and tribulations. The third and fourth novels serve the same purpose, being written ten years in the future. Updike wrote the series in ten year increments, which gives a realistic thought into progression of life, relationships, marriages, children’s growth, job security, and many other real life issues. I recommend the series highly, for anyone who can get past a little crude humor, and vulgar character flaws.

    Posted by Michele M Quinn | August 10, 2011, 9:18 pm
    • Michele,
      Thanks for your comment and sharing your views. I have no doubt the Rabbit stories may get better for the rest of the series but I’ll take a rain check on that, there are more enticing books to read. Each man to his own, if we all love the same thing the world would be a boring place indeed. 🙂

      Thanks again for sharing your views.

      Posted by JoV | August 13, 2011, 9:49 am

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Ratings Defined

0 = Abandon the book after first chapter

1 = Waste of paper, we will see what the environmentalist say about this!

2 = Skip it, read the book if you have got nothing better to do

2.5 = An average book, easily forgettable.

3 = A good read.

3.5 = A good entertaining read, a page-turner

4 = So glad that I read the book, a book with substance and invaluable for future reference

4.5 = So glad that I read the book, would pester everyone to read it, invaluable, I would want to own it and wouldn't mind a second read (something that I seldom do)

5 = The book is so good that I feel like I am on scale 4 and 4.5, and more, it blew me away and lingers on my head for weeks!

Books Read

JoV's bookshelf: read
Hold Tight
The Fault in Our Stars
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
The Thief
Mockingjay
Catching Fire
A Tale for the Time Being
Into the Darkest Corner
The Liars' Gospel
Goat Mountain
Strange Weather In Tokyo
Strange Shores
And the Mountains Echoed
Ten White Geese
One Step Too Far
The Innocents
The General: The ordinary man who became one of the bravest prisoners in Guantanamo
White Dog Fell from the Sky
A Virtual Love
The Fall of the Stone City


JoV's favorite books »
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Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

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