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Rabbit, Run by John Updike

Rabbit, Run (original 1960; edition 1996)

by John Updike

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4,379751,126 (3.6)328
Title:Rabbit, Run
Authors:John Updike (Author)
Info:Random House Trade Paperbacks (1996), Edition: Reissue, Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Books about Writers
Tags:suburban, suburbs, marriage

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Rabbit, Run by John Updike (1960)


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Showing 1-5 of 73 (next | show all)
Some really great writing, simple yet profound, but I found Mr. Rabbit Angstrom puzzling always seeming to do the wrong thing, but fairly sympathetic also. Not a lot of action the plot veers in different directions but leads finally to a tragic ending with heart rending consequences. ( )
  charlie68 | May 6, 2016 |
  danbrady | Apr 8, 2016 |
Great style. ( )
  Gerardlionel | Apr 2, 2016 |
Rabbit Run John Updike
2 Stars for enjoyment 3 stars for writing

Rabbit Run is the story of Rabbit Anstrom a man who was once a first rate basketball player, having married a younger woman and started a family Rabbit decides he is not happy and runs away.

Rabbit is a totally unlikeable man who seems under the impression that the world owes him something, and that he doesnt need to work at relationships he should be given what he wants, thoroughly childish and selfish.

The real tragedy is the women in his life who let him get away with it.

While some scenes are beautifully written, particulary Janices descent into drunkeness this is not enough to redeem the novel overall.

The most intriguing character for me is Eccles the reverend who appears to be the only person on the planet who thinks Rabbit is worth saving. ( )
  BookWormM | Jan 15, 2016 |
Rabbit, Run by John Updike

[Rabbit, Run] is the novel that launched John Updike's long, celebrated writing career. Though not his first novel, it is the one that prompted critics and readers to take notice of the young Harvard grad and staff writer for The New Yorker. The character it introduced—Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom—would return (once a decade) in three more novels, two of which earned Updike Pulitzer Prizes.

Reactions to the novel were mixed then and now. It was common to dismiss Updike as a magnificent wordsmith with, well, "nothing to say." More recently, organizations given to such exercises—Time and the Modern Library—named it one of the 100 best American novels of, roughly, the 20th century. Time's citation called Rabbit "ignorant" and cited his "feeling trapped in a job, a marriage, a town, a family that bore him… Rabbit is not a character calculated to inspire affection, but he is an unflinchingly authentic specimen of American manhood, and his boorishness makes his rare moments of vulnerability and empathy that much more heartbreaking."

The story follows Rabbit through a marital crisis largely of his own making. In high school, Rabbit was a basketball star, the leading scorer on the team; in real life, he's on the bench. Shortly after high school, he got his girl-friend, the daughter of a locally prominent car dealer, pregnant. They married. Now their son is a toddler, Janice is pregnant, and Rabbit is "demonstrating" a vegetable peeler for a living. He's blithely self-centered; Janice is alcoholic. One day on his walk home from "work," he encounters a group of lads shooting hoops at a playground. He muscles in on the game and demonstrates, if only to himself, that "Wow, Man! I've still got it!" Puffed up and proud, he gets home and…his supper isn't cooking, Janice is tipsy, their son is at his parents, and their car is parked at her parents. Miffed, he walks the several blocks to the car, but instead of then picking up young Nelson, he heads away, east, to the county line, then south…running.

Rabbit drives all night and returns to town by morning, but not to his wife. Instead, he drives to the clapped-out former factory building—now a "clubhouse"—where his high school coach, now almost a bum, is living. As Rabbit approaches,

Tothero says the perfect thing. "Harry," he says, "the great Harry Angstrom." He puts out his hand for Harry to seize and with the other squeezes the boy's arm in a clasp of rigour. It comes back to Rabbit how he always had his hands on you. Tothero just stands there holding on and looking at him, smiling crookedly, the nose bent, one eye wide open and the other heavy-lidded. His face has grown more lopsided with the years. He is not going bald evenly; brushed strands of grey and pale brown streak the top of his skull.

Rabbit blurts out that he wants advice, then confesses that he what he really needs is a place to sleep. He's left his wife, he tells the coach.

"It's Janice Springer, isn't it?" Tothero asks.

"Yeah. God she's dumb. She really is."

"Harry, that's a harsh thing to say. Of any human soul."

Then Tothero says:

"You asked me for two things…Two things. A place to sleep, and advice. Now, Harry, I'll give you the place to sleep provided, provided, Harry, that when you wake up the two of us have a serious, a long and serious talk about this crisis in your marriage…"

"Yeah, but I don't think I can. I mean I'm not that interested in her. I was, but I'm not."

The coach quickly provides Rabbit a place to sleep, and that night, despite the earlier tough talk, the coach introduces Rabbit to a girl named Ruth, who is a part-time hooker. Once at her apartment he settles in.

"You were a beautiful piece," he says from the pillow listlessly, and touches her soft side. Her flesh still soaks in the act; it ebbs slower in her.

"I had forgotten," she says.

"Forgot what?"

"That I could have it too."

"What's it like?"

"Oh. It's like falling through."

"Where do you fall to?"

"Nowhere. I can't talk about it."

He kisses her lips; she's not to blame. She lazily accepts, then in an after-flurry of affection flutters her tongue against his chin.

He loops his arm around her waist and composes himself against her body for sleep.

The next day, he sneaks back to his own apartment to leave the car for Janice and to collect clothes and toiletries. As he leaves, he is accosted by a man who introduces himself as Rev. Jack Eccles. He's pastor of the church Janice's parents attend and wants to facilitate reconciliation. Eccles' efforts take him into the homes of Rabbit's parents as well as Janice's parents. When Eccles arrives at the Springer home, Mrs. Springer is watching Nelson and another toddler while their mothers are shopping. He joins her on the screened-in back porch; the two boys are in the yard.

"Nelson! Stop that this minute!" She turns rigid in the glider but does not rise to see what is making the boy cry…Mrs Springer's voice leaps to a frantic hardness and cuts through the screen: ''Did you hear me I said stop that bawling!'

"The boy's taken his truck," {Eccles} tells Mrs Springer.

"Well let him get it himself," she says. "He must learn. I can't be getting up on these legs and running outside every minute; they've been at it like that all afternoon."

At the Angstrom home, opinion is divided. Rabbit's mother defends her son, telling Eccles Rabbit has nothing to apologize for, nothing to be ashamed of. He asserts that Janice is shy.

"Shy! She wasn't too shy to get herself pregnant so poor Hassy has to marry her when he could scarcely tuck his shirt-tail in…These little women are poison. Mincing around with their sneaky eyes getting everybody's sympathy. Well she doesn't get mine; let the men weep. To hear her father-in-law talk she's the worst martyr since Joan of Arc."

"Well uh, what does Mr Ang¬strom think Harry should do?"

"Crawl back. What else? He will, too, poor boy. He's just like his father underneath. All soft heart."

When Rabbit's father arrives from work, he convinces Eccles how terrible he feels about the split.

Earl Angstrom has a grey, ragged look. This business has blighted him. He thins his lips over his slipping teeth like a man with stomach trouble biting back gas. He is being nibbled from within. Color has washed from his hair and eyes; like cheap ink. A straight man, who has measured his life with the pica-stick and locked the forms tight, he has returned in the morning and found the type scrambled.

"I just don't see how Harry could make such a mess. As a boy he was always so trim. He wasn't like other boys, sloppy. He was a neat worker…In my opinion a good swift kick is what he needs."

In the end Rabbit gets several good swift metaphorical kicks from tragedies in which he is complicit. But to no lasting effect. He goes back to Janice, he slides into a car sales job at one of his father-in-law's lots, yet he just can't be still. He drops in on Ruth and pledges his love to her. But then he runs. "Ah: runs. Runs."

But tell me, did you LIKE it? That's sort of a trick question, isn't it? The simple answer is: Yes, I did like it. I admire Updike's accomplishment.

None of the primary characters are thoroughly likable. Rabbit is certainly a dirtball. Janice is irksome. I feel oh so sorry for Ruth as she deals with Rabbit's unconscionable manipulations. But she's as undecisive as he is; come on, girl, stand up for yourself! (Oh, and stop the hooking!) Jack Eccles? He's diligent but ineffectual. Marty Tothero? Either set of parents?

None likable, but certainly all authentic. They're familiar.

The book is a tour de force in capturing the small-city culture of 1959. It hits quite a few concerns of that day (and of today), particularly related to sex—orgasm, oral sex, abortion, the suspicion of homosexuality (which of course is not openly discussed). Everyone's self-absorption, too, is out there. Lack of compassion.

Yeah, it is seemy, frustrating, revolting, angering. But it is authentic. Yeah, I like it.
1 vote weird_O | Oct 5, 2015 |
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Updike, Johnprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Germeraad, R.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Boys are playing basketball around a telephone pole with a backboard bolted to it.
A serious shadow crosses her face that seems to remove her and Harry, who sees it, from the others, and takes them into that strange area of a million years ago from which they have wandered; a strange guilt pierces Harry at being here instead of there, where he never was. Ruth and Harrison across from them, touched by staccato red light, seem to smile from the heart of damnation. (p. 144, Penguin 1964 ed.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0449911659, Paperback)

Rabbit, Run is the book that established John Updike as one of the major American novelists of his—or any other—generation. Its hero is Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, a onetime high-school basketball star who on an impulse deserts his wife and son. He is twenty-six years old, a man-child caught in a struggle between instinct and thought, self and society, sexual gratification and family duty—even, in a sense, human hard-heartedness and divine Grace. Though his flight from home traces a zigzag of evasion, he holds to the faith that he is on the right path, an invisible line toward his own salvation as straight as a ruler’s edge.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:23 -0400)

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Tired of the responsibility of married life, Rabbit Angstrom leaves his wife and home.

(summary from another edition)

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2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141187832, 0141037520

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