Books »Rabbit, Run

rabbit run john updikeIt's been years since I read John Updike's ultimate midlife crisis asshole man novel Rabbit, Run but it's such an intense experience that I just couldn't bring myself to read it again even to freshen my memory for this blog entry. But, because it's such an intense experience, I really didn't have to, the story and its characters have been ingrained in my mind forever. The antics of Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom; his pregnant and blubbery boozy wife Janice; Marty Tothero, his old high school basketball coach; Ruth, the prostitute he stays with for a while; Jack, the minister who tries to steer the situation into some kind of compromise; and the parents and in-laws all leave an impression.

I'd hate to give too much away plot-wise, but for just a taste this was the tag line for the forgotten 1970 film adaptation: “3 months ago Rabbit Angstrom ran out to buy his wife cigarettes. He hasn't come home yet.”

Part of an epic quartet which includes Rabbit Redux, Rabbit Is Rich and Rabbit At Rest, and the novella Rabbit Remembered, this was not only culturally significant in its blunt examination of the perceived traps of modern life (it's included in TIME's alltime greatest 100 novels), but I just read that it was also one of the first novels to use the present tense. Updike, what a visionary you are!

Don't let the intensity scare you. I'll be honest, it's not a cheerful read, but it is a brilliant one.

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Posted on June 30, 2008

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