View Full Version : John Updike Binge

08-30-2001, 08:15 AM
This summer I became addicted to the ups and downs of life in the Angstrom household. So much so that after I finished each book, I had to run out and hunt down the next before doing anything else. I read them one after the other with barely a break in between. All four of them.

What I find strange about this is that I didn't really "like" or identify with any of the characters. I ended up feeling that Harry/Rabbit was a complete idiot.

Certainly, the four books I read were wonderful. I particularly appreciated noticing the changing attitudes and assumptions of the characters and the world around them at ten-year intervals. But I do find msyelf a little mystified as to why I enjoyed reading so much about people I hate.

I'm assuming now that Rabbit died in "Rabbit at Rest." But there certainly could be another installment about this family anyway. Isn't it overdue? Why do I have to wait! I want more Angstrom stuff NOW!!


08-30-2001, 08:56 AM
I read Rabbit, Run a couple of years ago, intending to read all the books before the expected fifth on around the turn of the millenium.

But then I learned Rabbit dies in Rabbit at Rest (which I found puzzling, since I always figured Rabbit was supposed to be a parallel character to Updike himself, and Updike isn't dead yet), so I figured there wouldn't be a fifth book.

Sense of urgency gone, I have still to read Rabbit Redux, Rabbit Is Rich and Rabbit At Rest.

And now I see there will be a fifth one after all, sort of: Licks of Love: Short Stories and a Sequel, "Rabbit Remembered" (http://shop.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?userid=1PMVEGIJJD&mscssid=7VRJQMFX53BN9M50MFEJH9MCD1F12TQ3&isbn=0345442016) comes out in November of this year.

So in a few months' time you'll be able to read it.

08-30-2001, 09:02 AM
Originally posted by Fiver
And now I see there will be a fifth one after all, sort of: Licks of Love: Short Stories and a Sequel, "Rabbit Remembered" (http://shop.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?userid=1PMVEGIJJD&mscssid=7VRJQMFX53BN9M50MFEJH9MCD1F12TQ3&isbn=0345442016) comes out in November of this year.

So in a few months' time you'll be able to read it.

Great! Glad to hear it. Unfortunately, I didn't get anything when I clicked the link. But now that I have a title, I can look stuff up on my own. Thanks!

Hey, did you hate Rabbit as much as I did? Just curious.


08-30-2001, 09:25 AM
Strange; I just clicked the link again, as posted, and it took me right to the Barnes and Noble listing of the book.

No, I didn't hate Rabbit (remember, I've only read the first book). For me to hate a character his evil would have to be much more willful and deliberate. Rabbit's sins are more of omission rather than commission...he's drifting along in life, never taking a stand, dodging his responsibilities. And he never really profits from his wrongs, even temporarily.

He's too pathetic to hate, really. But yes, I did dislike him.

Supposedly the oral sex in the book was quite an outrage when it was published in the fifties. That's pretty funny, since it's described so obliquely one could be forgiven for not noticing it at all.

08-30-2001, 09:33 AM
Yes, maybe hate was too strong a word. I think it was only that I believed he deserved any hardship he got. And it gets worse, if you continue to read the series. I highly recommend it. As I said, I think much of the genius in this work comes from the way the scene changes over time. Very interesting.

08-30-2001, 03:57 PM
Great thread. I got hooked on the Angstroms this summer as well and am happily plowing my way through "Rabbit at Rest."

What a great writer JU must be to so accurately and realistically present a dreary, contemporary world and make it all seem so fascinating, like you're reading a science-fiction novel or something. Come to think of it, Rabbit's life is pretty much science-fiction (compared to my life it is anyway). Leaves wife, takes up with fat prostie, wife leaves him, takes in another prostie and her radical black pimp, house burns down, prostie dies, son turns surly & impregnates girlfriend, goes on trip with friends and has anal sex with friend's wife...

I agree with Fiver; Rabbit drifts, never really makes or accomplishes anything...even his career and jobs have all been given to him. He's never worked for a damn thing in his life. I don't hate him but I'm glad I'm not him.

So far I think "Rabbit Redux" is probably the weak link. I just never really understood why Rabbit took in the hooker and her pimp; I understand his life is turned upside-down with his wife's affair and leaving him and all and that he pretty much hates where he is (Updike describes the days as "scraping at his eyes"), but why the hell do all that? The connection was never made for me.

BTW, have you noticed that the Rabbit novels all end on a single word? "Runs." "Okay?" "His." "Enough."

08-30-2001, 05:19 PM
Yes, the one word endings were very conspicuous. And very odd.

I agree that Rabbit simply takes what comes his way without giving it much though. I think that's why I tend toward dislike for him. He seems to think the world OWES him. Though it's also true that he doesn't seem upset when things don't pan out...except perhaps with his disappointment for his son. I mean, when his wife cheats on him he doesn't get ANGRY. He just sort of sits back and takes it and then makes friends with her lover. Everything just rolls over him like waves.

I think that's why he took the young girl and the black man in. He just sort of LET it happen without considering the possible consequences. Someone asked, he was too weak to refuse, and that was that. I never get the feeling that he's too DUMB to understand the consequences exactly...only that he doesn't care.

I guess I get disgusted with that because of his family. It's fine, I suppose, if you want to let yourSELF get dragged along by the tide. But he didn't seem to have any qualms about the tide's affect on his son and his wife or anyone else. He seemed selfish to me.


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