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Rabbit, Run by John Updike
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Rabbit, Run (original 1960; edition 1996)

by John Updike (Author)

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3,998631,279 (3.58)233
Member:Mark.Rubinstein
Title:Rabbit, Run
Authors:John Updike (Author)
Info:Random House Trade Paperbacks (1996), Edition: Reissue, Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Books about Writers
Rating:*****
Tags:suburban, suburbs, marriage

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Rabbit, Run by John Updike (1960)

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Showing 1-5 of 61 (next | show all)
I did not finish this book. I left it out in the rain, possibly on purpose. This was my second attempt to like Updike. It will be my last. ( )
  EllenReads | Apr 26, 2014 |
This book is interesting & depressing all at the same time. Harry Angstrom, AKA Rabbit, is a washed up former star basketball player in a 2 bit mountain town in PA. He got his girlfriend, Janice, knocked up so they got married. Given that this story takes place in the I would guess early 1960's, I think that was the expected thing to do at the time. Anyway, she is now pregnant with their second child, they have a fight over her depression & drinking, & he leaves her for a former prostitute named Ruth. The adventures he has between these 2 women makes him a decidedly unlikable character, almost an anti-hero type.

The end of the book is unsatisfying because it leaves you hanging. Of course, since this book is the first of a series of 4, I guess Updike did it that way so it would draw you into the second book, just to see what happens between Rabbit & his 2 "families". ( )
  Lisa.Johnson.James | Apr 11, 2014 |
The first 40 pages or so of this book are probably the worst 40 pages I've read since Austerlitz, which was so bad that I couldn't be bothered finishing it. Never before or since in the history of English language literature, or at least since Euphues, has an author so irritably reached after effect for no good reason.

"The Norway maples exhale the smell of their sticky new buds and the broad living-room windows along Wilbur Street show beyond the silver patch of a television set the warm bulbs burning in kitchens, like fires at the backs of caves." Yes, this aptly likens modern living to pre-historic living. But trees do not exhale; what colour other than silver would a television set be in the '50s?; what sort of a bulb (or anything else, for that matter) burns any way other than warmly?

"He had wondered what he was doing. But now these reflexes, shallowly scratched, are spent, and deeper instincts flood forward, telling him he is right. He feels freedom like oxygen everywhere around him... he adjusts his necktie with infinite attention, as if the little lines of this juncture of the Windsor knot, the collar of Tothero's shirt, and the base of his own throat were the arms of a star that will, when he is finished, extend outward to the rim of the universe. He is the Dalai Lama." Yes, this is faintly satirical. Yes, it's meant to show us the stupidity of Rabbit, and it does. But on the way it shows the incompetence of the narrator. What sort of a scratch is otherwise than shallow? Who 'feels' oxygen around them (air, maybe, but not unless it's particularly windy)? And clearly the simile at the end is *not* in Rabbit's head, so we can only blame Updike for seeing the universe in a tie-knot. Don't even get me started on the gobsmackingly ugly use of alliteration and assonance: scratched are spent; flood forward; feels freedom; infinite attention; little lines; will when he is finished; extend outward. That's in *half a paragraph*. And approximately 50% of the book is written in this 'style.'

And you'll be able to find your own examples, too. Here are some brief ones at random from page 86: "three long nicks, here, scratched in the wall, parallel". *Long* nicks? "the pork chops... cold as death, riding congealed grease" riding to where? what's wrong with 'sitting on'? "he takes clean Jockey pants, T-shirts and socks from a drawer" Do *you* keep your dirty underwear in your drawers? "the furniture, carpeting, wallpaper all seem darkly glazed with the murk filming his own face" Would they be transparently glazed with murk?

Thankfully, in the other half, when Updike isn't meditating his way into ecstasy over misplaced adjectives, excessive adjectives, superfluous adverbs, reified adjectives, and pointless, uninformative lists ("on the bureau there is a square glass ashtray and a pair of fingernail scissors and a spool of white thread and a needle and some hairpins and a telephone book and a Baby Ben with luminous members and a recipe she never used torn from a magazine and a necklace made of sandalwood beads carved in Java he got her for Christmas") characters actually speak to each other and display the characteristics we generally associate with human beings.

This is all the more difficult for me to cope with because the moral of the story - running away from your responsibilities is an awful thing to do and will have terrible consequences on those who care for you, and even those who don't really - needs to be said in novels more often than it is by good writers these days (and by 'these days' I mean the twentieth century). But it has to be said better than this, for goodness' sake. I really hope Rabbit, Redux has less rapture over the everyday. Please. Please. ( )
1 vote stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
I'll come right out and say it - I rarely read general or literary fiction. I'm clearly into science fiction and fantasy. I only picked up the first of John Updike's Rabbit books because I was thoroughly intrigued after hearing this title was challenged or banned in some areas.

I was pretty amazed. Unlike many books, this is written in present tense rather than past tense. It actually works here. The story revolves around Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom, a former high school basketball star now living a daily existence as part of the rat race. But he finds it hard to do after dreaming of his glory days.

It's quite a tantalizing read that is hard to put down. There's sexual content here, but it's not gratuitous and adds to the tension in the text. ( )
  maxwestart | Aug 13, 2013 |
There are hundreds upon hundreds of classic literature novels I need to read, and the reaction I most hate to have when I read them is ambivalence. If they’re amazing, all’s good; if they suck then I can just rant about them and decry their status as icons. When you read the magnum opus of a man considered to be one of the 20th century’s greatest writers and your reaction is “Yeah, it was pretty good, I guess,” it’s not easy to review.

Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom is a 26-year-old husband, father to a toddler, with another baby on the way. In high school he was a basketball star, a hero, but you get the impression that the big fish in the little pond wasn’t quite talented enough to make it elsewhere, which is why he’s still stuck in his hometown in Pennsylvania working as a kitchen implement salesman. One night his growing anxiety and dissatisfaction with his life reaches breaking point, and he gets in his car and drives away. He finds himself drawn back, though, and the novel covers the next few months of his life as he deals with the consequences of his actions.

I knew before reading this that Rabbit is widely considered one of the most unlikeable protagonists in fiction, and I have to say, I don’t see why. He’s certainly not likeable – he can be self-centred, obnoxious, narcissistic and demanding, not to mention the cowardice of abandoning his wife and child. But the entire point of the book is about human flaws, particularly the flaws of youth – feeling trapped, knowing there could be more out there, wanting to avoid responsibility and run away (though I did find it odd that Rabbit immediately shacks up with another woman). So while he’s not likeable, I didn’t find him unlikeable, either, and I certainly found him sympathetic. I’m actually hard-pressed to think of a fictional protagonist I 100% dislike – or a real-life person, for that matter. Maybe I’m a nice person. Or maybe I’m easily influenced and will throw my sympathies behind whoever the narrator happens to be. David Lurie in J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace is also, apparently, a widely disliked figure, but I had no problem sympathising with him. Maybe I’m more capable of analysing a character’s actions and sympathising with their motives than other readers; maybe I’m mature enough to understand why people do things without necessarily condoning them. Or maybe that’s a very condescending thing to say and I’m a narcissist like Rabbit. Who knows? What a world!

Rabbit, Run also feels like a happier book than it should be. Some terrible, terrible things occur – above and beyond what Rabbit does at the beginning – yet Updike’s prose has a way of making every single thing in the universe seem beautiful, from the trees to the flowers down to the clock ticking in a waiting room at a hospital. You know how sometimes you go through your day and feel blah, and other times you’re walking down the street and every puddle, street sign and strange odour seems wonderful and make you happy to be alive? Updike writes a world of the latter, even if it does send him into purple prose territory at times.

I wasn’t blown away by Rabbit, Run the way I was hoping to be, but I did appreciate it and I do think it’s a strong novel that deserves its place in the canon. I’ll be reading Rabbit Redux down the track. ( )
1 vote edgeworth | Jun 3, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Updikeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kreitsek, Howard B.screenplaymain authorall editionsconfirmed
Germeraad, R.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The motions of Grace,
the hardness of the heart;
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Boys are playing basketball around a telephone pole with a backboard bolted to it.
Quotations
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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:58:40 -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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