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Rabbit, Run Paperback – August 27, 1996
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“Brilliant and poignant . . . By his compassion, clarity of insight, and crystal-bright prose, [John Updike] makes Rabbit’s sorrow his and our own.”—The Washington Post
“The power of the novel comes from a sense, not absolutely unworthy of Thomas Hardy, that the universe hangs over our fates like a great sullen hopeless sky. There is real pain in the book, and a touch of awe.”—Norman Mailer, Esquire
“A lacerating story of loss and of seeking, written in prose that is charged with emotion but is always held under impeccable control.”—Kansas City Star
From the Publisher
I read Rabbit, Run when I was in high school (and it wasn't even a school assignment!). Twenty years later (at least!), three very vivid scenes from that book still pop into my head from time to time. The first is the used-car lot, where Rabbit Angstrom, the former basketball star, works for his father-in-law. The second scene is in a very red Chinese restaurant that had changed over from a French restaurant only the week before. Rabbit is there with his old coach and two women that are not their wives, and they drink daiquiris and whiskey sours. This restaurant could have been (and was) in my small town. The third scene is the most harrowing, and I've repeated it as a cautionary tale to young mothers for years, telling the story as if it had happened to someone I know. Janice, Rabbit's wife, who slugs alcohol throughout her pregnancy, is drunk and bathing her newborn baby when something terrible happens. I won't ruin it by telling you more. I read hundreds of books a year, both for my job and for pleasure, so the fact that parts of this book are so indelibly etched in my mind is a testament to the talent and genius of John Updike.
P.S. all of the other books in the Rabbit series are equally unforgettable.
--Maureen O'Neal --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
The characters are not unremarkable but their actions are. Excepting Harry, and perhaps his elderly erstwhile employer, the characters mostly plod through their listless lives. Some of them find outlet in trite debauchery while others don't appear to have much outlet at all. But they all seem to have fairly rich inner monologues and Updike does a good job of making that clear. Again, there's a paradox. Why are these characters with such deeply held convictions and strong senses of self so trapped in mediocrity?
Updike's Rabbit Angstrom is an earlier generation's Frank Bascombe. The problem with that is neither character is particularly compelling. Both Updike and Richard Ford grapple with the tedium of the suburbs, perhaps, but that can make their depictions tedious. Sometimes, the reader struggles to care enough to continue. That said, Updike gives his characters enough depth that we have to bear with him.
Anyway, the first review on this book on this site is by Douglas B. Wood, dated 2006. Mister Wood stated that this is not necessarily an enjoyable book. That is exactly how I feel. The talent of the author is obvious. But the book itself is disconcerting. The protagonist is having some life crisis and abandons his wife and child. The author seems to be conveying an atheistic and nihilistic point of view that I personally find depressing. The author also uses certain terms such as the "F word" and the "C word" in ways that I feel are not necessary and this cheapens the work.
Then there are passages that are in the "stream of conciousness" style. Paragraphs can be very lengthy. There is one passage wherein the author is conveying a stream of consciousness on behalf of a female former prostitute about how she feels about some men and sex acts she has acted out. I really did not care for that. I thought it was sort of creepy. This is just a matter of taste, I suppose, but I simply do not care for stream of conciousness writing. I almost cannot think of a single example that I have enjoyed.
Mister Updike uses a lot of adjectives and metaphorical references, I feel almost to an excess. At times, I almost feel he is simply trying too hard to be everything to everybody as a writer. In that way, this novel reminds me of another first novel, "Soldiers' Pay" by an iconic American author, William Faulkner. Mr. Faulkner also did steam of conciousness writing with excruciatingly long paragraphs, but not in Soldiers' Pay. "Absalom Absalom!" comes to mind here. In order to make the book more completely readable to me, I have done the following. I slowly read the text and take in all the adjectives and metaphors. Then I listen to an audiobook of the same passage while rereading it. It takes time, but the writing sinks in, and at least to me, it is worth it.
Mister Updike seems very precise in his selections of words as descriptors. An indication of Mr. Updike's cognizance of this is the following. Later in the book, the protagonist, Rabbit, says to his father in law that he will keep his part of a "bargain". Mr. Updike says here that Rabbit thinks about what made him use the word "bargain". So what? Well just a little earlier in the book there is a preacher's wife speaking to the preacher and providing to him thoughts and illumination. The preacher is impressed by her analysis of events and, by the way, her word selection, when she describes Rabbit as a "heel". Then when she leaves the room she was in with her husband Mr. Updike states she "swishes" out of the room. I felt that was a very odd verb to use at that point; kind of demeaning. The protagonist socializes with very worldly ladies prior to this point in the book. Yet the author waits until now to use the word "swish" to describe the gait of preacher's wife as she completes a very serious conversation with her husband. Odd indeed...
This book is set in a fictional town in Eastern Pennsylvania. In that context, this novel reminds me of yet another somewhat iconic novel "Appointment in Samarra" by John O'Hara. Another somewhat forgotten "coming of age" novel set in 20th century southeast Pennsylvania by an iconic author is "Fires of Spring" by James Michener. One might these three novels an interesting study for purposes of compare and contrast.
Anyway, I am very grateful and glad that I have the opportunity to read this novel. Thank You...