26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rabbit Has Quit Running; He Found the American Dream
Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom, John Updike's monumental "everyman" creation has reached middle age, and we find him ten years after the previous book comfortably ensconced in his mother-in-law's home, running Springer Motors for her and Janice, and actually in love with his wife at last. The Angstroms have achieved the American dream and are even the center of their own little...
Published on April 4, 2005 by Antoinette Klein
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Where "Wife Swap" isn't just a T.V. show.
(I made a mistake with the stars, it should be four). As stated in my recent reviews of "Rabbit Run" and "Rabbit Redux," I purchased the Rabbit tetralogy in its single volume form, and am attempting to read it straight through. I'll admit it, during some parts of "Rabbit Run," with Upike's occasionally ponderous prose, and Rabbit's amoral ways, I had my doubts about...
Published on December 4, 2005 by trainreader
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rabbit Has Quit Running; He Found the American Dream,
This review is from: Rabbit Is Rich (Paperback)Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom, John Updike's monumental "everyman" creation has reached middle age, and we find him ten years after the previous book comfortably ensconced in his mother-in-law's home, running Springer Motors for her and Janice, and actually in love with his wife at last. The Angstroms have achieved the American dream and are even the center of their own little clique at a country club established for the nouveau riche.
If you remember the Carter era, gas shortages, Cheryl Ladd replacing Farrah Fawcett in "Charlie's Angels" and Toyota's "Oh, what a feeling!" commercials, you will love this look back at America in 1979 and into the early 80's.
A fatter, richer Rabbit dabbles in gold and silver, plays golf, and wages war with his son Nelson, now a student at Kent State. When Nelson drops out of college and returns home, Rabbit says, "I like having Nelson in the house. It's great to have an enemy. Sharpens your senses." Nelson is the worst of Rabbit, scared and running, torn between two women, impregnating and marrying one while too young to handle the responsibility, and taking off.
Rabbit, though outwardly-satisfied and enjoying his affluent life, has never ceased mourning for what he cannot have. A young girl who enters his Toyota dealership reminds him so much of himself and Ruth, his lover from RABBIT, RUN, that he is convinced she is the daughter he never knew and is restless until he can confront Ruth about her. Janice, on the other hand, has matured into a suburban wife, playing tennis and lolling about the country club pool and in general convincing Rabbit to admit that the decade past has taught her more than it has taught him.
The secondary characters in this installment are brilliant. We see Charlie Stavros progressing into old age and running off to Florida with a young girl, but it is the Angstroms country club friends who provide the most decadent insight into the times as a group trip to the Caribbean becomes an adventure in wife-swapping and brings Rabbit nearer his dream of possessing the wife of his good buddy.
Rabbit himself neatly sums up his existence when he says "At my age if you carried all the misery you've seen on your back you'd never get up in the morning." But get up he does, to strut another day at Springer Motors, to chase one more woman, to fight one more battle with Nelson, and in the final page to possess his heart's desire----but I'll leave that up you, good reader, to discover on your own what that desire is.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything hits at once,
This review is from: Rabbit Is Rich (Paperback)Having not been born until the decade was nearly over, the legendary hedonism of the seventies was something I could never experience, so this book is probably the closest I'll ever come. The third book in Updike's Rabbit series, it continues to follow the life of Harry Angstrom, who seems to plow through life mostly be reacting, as opposed to taking a firm hand in events. The books don't need to be read in order, but there are certain slim plot threads that are carried over and some scenes have extra resonance as they echo earlier events. But isn't that the same with any life, some things just have more meaning if you know the story behind it. In this third novel Harry is settling down, living at his mother-in-law's house with his wife (they're back together now, and Harry even works cordially with the man she cheated on him with) while he works at the used car lot. Somehow he's achieved some state of stability, while not filthy rich, he's well off and he and his wife go out often with other well off couples from the area, playing tennis and hanging out by the pool. Overall, life's pretty good. Except it's not. Harry keeps thinking that the yoing girl he's seen around town a few times might be his daughter by way of his lover Ruth almost twenty years ago. And his son Nelson comes back to make trouble, escaping college, torn between two women and just complicating life in general. The best thing about the Rabbit novels is that they don't have a "plot" per se as much as direction, they function as a snapshot of a certain period of time and Updike manages to orchestrate events so that they have a natural rising action and climax that good fiction demands, while at the same time making it feel perfectly natural, following the rhythms of life. With his keen eye he depicts people caught in the decadence of the seventies even as everything was about to slide apart around them, it's the story of people shaped not only by the times, but by each other and the times that went before them. Harry remains a strangely endearing character, selfish and self-absorbed, directionless but looking for a way out, possessed of a weird code of decency that expresses itself in some odd ways. His discussions with his son are some of the best parts of the book, as Harry tries to help the kid out, their conversations quickly devolve into accusations and lead nowhere. Harry doesn't want to listen to his son and Nelson wants to hear nothing of what his dad has to say. Harry seems painfully self-aware of what's going on around him but powerless to do anything about it, striking out at various things to make him feel like he's doing something productive when in the end he's just spinning his wheels. Nelson has grown up finally and grown nowhere at all as well, in contrast to his father, who has achieved some domestic calm, Nelson acts like a man constantly trapped, boxed in every time he turns around, not sure if this option is the best one but sure it was better than the one before and maybe if he waits long enough and dallies, something better will present itself. All of these characters act and interact and intersect under the guise of Updike's finely tuned prose, his gift for description propelling even the slowest scene with a steady progression, providing a calm voice to every character's thoughts, imbuing even the most hollow person with a bit of life. The book has the messy cadence of life, with irrelevant conversations and asides, tangents that don't go anywhere and yet it's all guided by the steady hand of his words, carrying it to the only conclusions, checking us out so he can pause for a second and get ready to check in again ten years later to see how Harry is doing. In Harry Angstrom Updike has created as close to a real person (a real American, since he's so shaped by time and place) in all his imperfections and screwed up traits than most of us will ever see. People who say that it's "about nothing" miss the point. People who say "you can cut a lot of it out" miss the point. It's a prose photograph, showcasing all the messy details in all their glory, the same way you can't erase the house in the background because it clashes with the color of your shirt. You have to just take it all in, and make what you can of it.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rabbit: The Next Generation,
This review is from: Rabbit Is Rich (Paperback)In this third installment of the Rabbit series, circa 1979/1980, we find Harry ("Rabbit") Angstom confronted by inflation, gas shortages, the Carter Administration's crisis of confidence, and most importantly by his son, Nelson. Nelson, who is now in his 20's, desparately wants to work as a salesman in Rabbit's Toyota dealership, even though that would mean displacing the company's top salesman. Harry feels that Nelson lacks the necessary maturity and competence for the position and wants him to return to college in Ohio. To complicate matters, the dealership is now owned by Janice and by Rabbit's mother-in-law, who inherited the firm from Rabbit's late father-in-law. The women are on Nelson's side and, of course, gang up on Rabbit.
These are only a very few of the many complications in this great novel. Updike further develops the Harry/Nelson father and son relationship that was begun in _Rabbit Redux_. Updike has an uncanny ability to write realistic dialogue. The reader is able to gets into the heart and head of Nelson, whose anguish is palpable. It is the anguish of a young man who desperately wants to break away from his family and the past, and to attain personal responsibility, while seriously questioning his readiness for independence. Nelson, thus, must not only struggle with his feelings about a very pregnant girlfriend who he feels it his responsibilty to marry and to support, but also with some very painful memories for which he severely blames his father. Mutual resentments felt by both the son AND the father are revealed. Both admit a fear that Nelson may be doomed to repeat the same mistakes made years earlier by Rabbit.
The novel also realistically presents the various sexual insecurities of the average middle-aged male. Who else best represents the aging, average American male, but Harry Angstrom? Happily, Rabbit discovers much that is positive about himself in an interesting and sensitively portrayed (and unexpected) encounter with a friend's wife.
I highly recommend _Rabbit Is Rich_ to everyone who truly appreciates excellent writing and rich characterizations.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Where "Wife Swap" isn't just a T.V. show.,
This review is from: Rabbit Is Rich (Paperback)(I made a mistake with the stars, it should be four). As stated in my recent reviews of "Rabbit Run" and "Rabbit Redux," I purchased the Rabbit tetralogy in its single volume form, and am attempting to read it straight through. I'll admit it, during some parts of "Rabbit Run," with Upike's occasionally ponderous prose, and Rabbit's amoral ways, I had my doubts about finishing. But, perhaps because I've simply grown accustomed to Updike's style, and Rabbit's sense of morality (or lack thereof), I enjoyed "Rabbit Redux," and "Rabbit is Rich," alot.
As with the two previous Rabbit novels, in "Rabbit is Rich" we continue to learn about Updike's/Rabbit's fear/obsession with: aging, death, children, suburbia, race, sexual preferences, breasts, genitalia and sex, sex, sex. We also get to learn something about golf and sailing techniques, and how to swap spouses on a vacation without, apparently, any guilt or consequences. Lest I sound sarcastic, I want to make one thing clear: "Rabbit is Rich" is well-written and compelling, and I can certainly understand why Updike is considered one of America's best contemporary novelists.
In "Rabbit is Rich," with the backdrop of the end of the Carter presidency (e.g. high inflation, gas shortages, and Americans held hostage in Iran), Harry Angstrom has taken over his late father-in-law's car dealership, specializing in Toyota's, and has proudly joined the ranks of the upper-middle class. He's fortunate to have a dependable right hand man, Charlie Stavros, also his closest friend, and his wife Janice's former lover (although that, surprisingly, doesn't stand in the way of their friendship). Rabbit's chief nemesis is his son, Nelson, who has returned home before completing college with a female friend, obviously running away from something. Nelson wants to join his parent's auto dealership to sell used convertibles, and Rabbit correctly deduces that Nelson is making the same mistakes in life as he did. Their love-hate relationship consumes much of the book.
Another problem that disturbs Rabbit's relative bliss has to do with his meeting a young woman at the dealership who he believes might be his illegitimate daughter, because she looks so much like Ruth, the prostitute he had an affair with 20 years earlier. Less significant is Rabbit's frequent fantasizing about getting rid of Janice, and hooking up with the younger wife of one of his golf buddies. Rabbit has obvious personality shortfalls, but some people seem to like him a great deal (especially the wife of yet another golf buddy, who is stricken with Lupus).
Anyway, I thought I would quote two good samples of sentences which demonstrate Updike's extraordinary descriptive writing:
Example one: "She breathed that air he'd forgotten, of high-school loveliness, come uninvited to bloom in the shadow of railroad overpasses, alongside telephone poles, within earshot of highways with battered aluminum center strips, out of mothers gone to lard and fathers ground down by gray days of work and more work, in an America littered with bottlecaps, and pull-tabs and pieces of broken muffler."
Example two: "The town he runs through is dark, full of slanty alleyways and sidewalks cracked and tipped from underneath, whole cement slabs lifted up by roots like crypt lids in a horror movie, the dead reach up, they catch at his heels."
Is it any wonder that critics rave about Updike's descriptive powers? Although Updike's Rabbit series isn't for everyone, I have come to appreciate more and more, with each successive Rabbit book, what an extraordinary writer he is.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Third "Rabbit" novel is a triumph.,
This review is from: Rabbit Is Rich (Paperback)It's 1979, and Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom is now part-owner and chief salesman of his deceased father-in-law's Toyota dealership; smaller Japanese imports promise greater fuel efficiency in these times of gas shortage and skyrocketing inflation. With their finances finally solvent and their marriage somewhat stable, Rabbit and his wife Janice have joined a country club for the affluent middle class and have a new circle of friends. In true lecherous Rabbit style, he fantasizes about the wife of one of his friends, in one of the novel's three major plot threads. On a group vacation to a Carribean island, he barely misses out on realizing his fantasy in a spouse-swapping episode described in rich, erotic detail, an Updike forte.
The second plot thread concerns Rabbit's son Nelson, who has been dawdling away his college years and comes home with a surprise: He has gotten a girl named Pru (short for "prudish") pregnant and intends to drop out of college and marry her. Rabbit reluctantly agrees to give Nelson a sales job at the dealership to appease Janice and her mother. While Rabbit has accumulated some wisdom and levelheadedness in his middle age, Nelson, in his young adulthood, has taken on some of Rabbit's judgmental and censorious attitude toward people, and his impulsive business decisions hurt the dealership's profits. Like his father long ago, Nelson has a tendency to run away when encroached upon by life's pressures.
The third plot thread concerns a girl who innocently visits the dealership one day. She reminds Rabbit of somebody...He realizes she could be the illegitimate daughter he fathered twenty years ago in his fling with a woman named Ruth. He needs to confront Ruth to achieve closure over this missing piece in his life's puzzle but is unable to work up the nerve.
"Rabbit Is Rich" is not as turbulent as its predecessor, "Rabbit Redux," but that could be because 1979 was not as interesting as 1969. I see these novels as chronicles of the American zeitgeist, starring an Everyman to whom everybody can relate in some way or another, like him or not. Updike is one of our great contemporary wordsmiths, turning everyday sights and sounds into majestic literary canvases. His ability to describe the most mundane things in life -- a plane taking off, a crumpled car fender, a head of hair, the actions of a dog, the forced solemnity of a wedding ceremony -- with incredible perceptivity and poeticality makes you look at things you normally take for granted in a completely different light.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Updike at his best: Real life, compassionately portrayed,
By A Customer
This review is from: Rabbit Is Rich (Paperback)As good as the first in the "Rabbit" series. "Rabbit Is Rich" is Updike at the peak of his powers, describing in rich, vivid, compassionate detail the feelings, observations, memories, and dreams of recognizable people in mainstream American situations.
As in "Rabbit, Run," the sex scenes (and the sexual energy in general) are poignant and unforgettable.
Through these characters, Updike offers us a portrait of life's restlessness and the pitfalls of growing older. Like "Rabbit, Run" (and unlike "Rabbit Redux") this novel can be read as a standalone and be rewarding.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars How Much Is Enough?,
This review is from: Rabbit Is Rich (Paperback)When even the hapless Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom of Rabbit, Run and Rabbit Redux finds himself living the American Dream, circa 1980, in his own typical fashion, that is reactively, due to his father-in-law dying and his wife and mother-in-law giving him the car dealership to run, he finds himself missing something. Is it the 20 year old illegitimate child he suddenly suspects he's fathered? Resolution of issues, both psychological and territorial, with his son Nelson, eyewitness to the weakest moments of Harry's life, himself at a crossroads without many options? The bliss of a new relationship, perhaps with the youngest of country club wives the Angstroms pal around with these days? Or simply more wealth, and a home of their own, out and away from old Bessie and the Springer nest? Unlike the first two Rabbit books, this is a 423 page novel of minor buildups leading up to a less than monumental payoff, possessing a clear lack of important events(which may disappoint some readers). Rabbit is Rich seems to be more about the things we want than the things we get. Even as Harry exceeds his wildest imaginings, it is the constant hunger, longing, and awareness that the grave is hiding around the corner that makes him feel most human. The characters are much more vivid and believable in this book than the first sequel, and as always with Updike, every sentence is a delicacy.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Updike's Brilliant and Fun Look at 80s America,
This review is from: Rabbit Is Rich (Paperback)The third in the series of Rabbit books, Updike has glorious fun with Rabbit as the prosperous owner of a Toyota dealership. Flush with money, Rabbit navigates the world of upper-class America in his usual bumbling and yet insightful way. Updike has lots of sly fun with 80's style Reagan values of "greed is good." A classic.
Donald Gallinger is the author of The Master Planets
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Lot Happens But Nothing Changes,
This review is from: Rabbit Is Rich (Paperback)This book has left me conflicted with my disappointment; I'm having trouble pin pointing exactly what made this flop, so excuse me if I am bit scattered with my analysis. It started out with a strong narrative, and as this was my first introduction to Rabbit, I was intrigued to read.
The first major fault of this book is at the story-telling level. There are tons of things that "happen" but none of them mean anything. Every character is the same in the beginning of the book as in the end. We are introduced to immoral, unlikeable characters (which I'm perfectly fine with!) but then nothing about them really change.
What compounds this problem is Updikes' verbose style; you will see many times where one paragraph dominates two to three full pages. It, at times, can be very powerful and insightful language that describes emotions very well. Often though, it is unnecessary description that only adds details to a book without a story.
So I guess my indecision is what I was suppose to take away from this book: it was not very story-driven, but it's characters never grew or developed. It had a good base in being middle America during a set period, but I read literature to see how people in different periods react, change and grow with their unique circumstances. If I wanted to just know the events of the year, I could have easily googled that. I don't think it was for pure entertainment value since this seems to be more analytical type of book, but I didn't glean anything thought-provoking from it.
I leave this book with just wondering: what should I have learned after I read 450 pages where nothing changed and nothing happened?
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful!,
This review is from: Rabbit Is Rich (Paperback)This is the first Rabbit and first Updike novel I read. I am now a huge fan of both.
The suburban imagery, the sexually-obsessed thoughts, the confinement of marriage, the grass-is-greener over there beliefs, and the realities of material-obsessed America are so well crafted by Updike that you really believe that you have come to know Rabbit and America in the 1970s-1980s inside and out. Rabbit's pathetic, genuine, scared, and confident - he is a true "Everyman."
Though raunchy as hell at times (and I mean, raunchy), this book is an absolute prize for anyone who lived in a Northeast suburb either as an adult or child.
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Rabbit Is Rich by John Updike (Paperback - August 27, 1996)