Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Rabbit, Run by John Updike

Rabbit, Run (original 1960; edition 1996)

by John Updike

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,258711,164 (3.6)311
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

Work details

Rabbit, Run by John Updike (1960)

Recently added byprivate library, KraatzE, eastlake_uk, kekmrs
Legacy LibrariesValeriya Ilyinichina Novodvorskaya, David Foster Wallace

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 311 mentions

English (69)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  All languages (71)
Showing 1-5 of 69 (next | show all)
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 |
The Rabbit series has been on my reading list for a very long time, mainly because the final two volumes "Rabbit is Rich", and "Rabbit at Rest" won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. But in order to fully appreciate the continuing story of Harry Angstrom- one must wade through the first two volumes- "Rabbit Run" and "Rabbit Redux".

"Rabbit Run" takes the reader back to 1959. Harry (Rabbit) Angstrom- former basketball star of the local small town high school- is now 26 years old, married with a toddler and another child on the way, works in a “five and dime” store demonstrating vegetable peelers for minimum wage, and it is a gross understatement to say that Harry is not very happy with his life.

The opening scene presents a despondent, frustrated young man coming home from work to a rundown, sparsely furnished apartment where his cranky and pregnant wife is lounging on the sofa chain smoking, chugging Old Fashions and watching cartoons... while the toddler, Nelson, is up the street at Harry’s parent’s home being fed dinner.

Welcome to the world of a couple born of the “Silent Generation”... small town America.
Seldom including a college education, young boys regularly went off to fight the Korean war, and came home to a job in a factory or retail, married young, and immediately started a family. Marriage was generally to a local acquaintance based on childhood infatuation. Compatibility was merely a matter of geographic convenience, and the end result was often fleeting sexual attraction, fading beauty, and mundane co-existence.

John Updike’s claim to fame may very well be that he depicts that time frame so well… skillfully carrying the couple through four novels from their cradle to grave. "Rabbit Run" is the story of Harry Angstrom and his wife Janice in the early years of their marriage. And it is no “Leave it to Beaver” story. As a whole, the story is dark and somber. But it is clearly not without moments of Updike’s wry humor.

When Harry walks out on Janice, the family minister befriends Harry in an effort to help save the marriage. Harry tells Reverend Eccles, “I once did something right. I played first-rate basketball... and after you’re first-rate at something, no matter what, it kind of takes the kick out of being second-rate. And that little thing Janice and I had going, boy, it was really second rate.” The humor comes in when Harry- in an impulsive moment- smacks the behind of Reverend Eccles cute little wife. And later when the Reverend gives Harry a ride and drops him off at a prostitute’s house. But of course, no one was laughing, and the darkness quickly follows. Eccles finally loses his cool, and barks at Harry, “you’re monstrously selfish. You’re a coward. You don’t care about right and wrong; you worship nothing except your own worst instincts.”

As Harry and Janice muddle through their floundering marriage, we witness the influence of their parents and friends, their cultural values, spiritual backgrounds, and Harry’s stream-of-consciousness reasoning.

Ranging from flamboyant poetic descriptions to ridiculously excessive intellectual metaphors, John Updike’s writing is sometimes difficult to read. During some of the most critical scenes I found myself asking, why couldn’t he just tell the story? And yet, other times- from Harry’s point of view- the story is bluntly crude, crass, and arrogantly vulgar. ( )
  LadyLo | Feb 12, 2015 |
A very entertaining story about Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom's life, he has a wife that has trapped him into a relationship bearing a unplanned son, he's trying to cope with the demands that society puts on his life, but he withdraws from the situation and takes off running. The author John Updike writes so every word has its place, like making a jigsaw puzzle, every piece has its place like his words too form a explicit story line. ( )
  Gatorhater | Feb 2, 2015 |
This book came to me with warnings of its dark mood. Great, I thought. Right up my alley. And as I also like my books to be, it is not all about the plot.

The story unfolds slowly, allowing time for a real sense of place and personality to develop. We hear the internal monologues of various characters and however superficial their actions seem, their rationalisations for them are not. Being able to marry the action with the persons justifications for it is quite a treat. And it is this, I think, that made me love reading this book.

The plot itself does exist, and it involves Rabbit- a lanky ex-basketball high achiever, who is navigating his way around his young marriage. This is proving not as exciting for him as his heady days of sport. Rabbit is keen to explore and fulfill the needs of himself only, and has no qualms about making use of anyone who can assist his passage. He has a local church man willing to try to steer him on a more morally sound course, and his parents-in-law also care. His wife is struggling with alcohol and the stress of having a largely absent husband whilst caring for a toddler and being heavily pregnant. It is a sad state of affairs. The book ends with an incident, the result of which there is no coming back from. I look forward to reading the next installment. ( )
3 vote Ireadthereforeiam | Nov 27, 2014 |
Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom was once the star of the basketball team. Now he is the "old guy", married to a wife with an alcohol problem, and just wanting to escape. He attempts to drive to Florida but ends up turning around, driving to his old coach's home who introduces him to a woman that leads him down the wrong path. While I can appreciate that this book is well-written and that it holds literary merit, it is not one that I find particularly enjoyable. It's a book that is read more for the characters and situations in which they find themselves than for a "good feeling" that one might get from reading another work of literature. It shows the consequences of poor decisions -- his own decisions, those of his wife, those of his coach, etc. ( )
  thornton37814 | Nov 10, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 69 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Updike, Johnprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Germeraad, R.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
The motions of Grace,
the hardness of the heart;
external circumstances
First words
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.)
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
Haiku summary

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)

(see all 5 descriptions)

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

(summary from another edition)

» see all 5 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
9 avail.
185 wanted
3 pay3 pay

Popular covers


Average: (3.6)
0.5 7
1 34
1.5 10
2 81
2.5 22
3 199
3.5 88
4 286
4.5 42
5 185


2 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

See editions

Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141187832, 0141037520

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Store | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 100,890,441 books! | Top bar: Always visible