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John Updike: The Rabbit Novels

Discussion in 'Fiction Books' started by Dogmatix, Jun 21, 2006.

  1. Dogmatix

    Dogmatix New Member

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    Currently Reading:
    The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear Walter Moers
    I promise I search BAR for a thread but if it's here I missed it. :rolleyes:

    Has anyone read part or all of this series and what was your impression? I've been toying with the idea of tackling the complete set this winter and was interested to see if anyone here has an opinion, good or bad, about it. Amazon has some reviews but I trust you guys a lot more.:D
     
  2. Shade

    Shade New Member

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    I've read the first three, and will probably read the fourth next year (I've been reading them one per year). To be honest I've probably been less impressed with each one as I go along, not least because they start to get ridiculously long, what with Updike's middle-aged word-bloat and all. And of course in each book really only one or two things really happen. The rest is Updike's attempting to show that the ordinary life can be worth celebrating, or at least recording. The difficulty for me is that he shows precisely the opposite. The writing is often wonderful - even beautiful - but for me there were long stretches of exceptional boredom on the way. You can read my more detailed thoughts on each book as did them here.
     
  3. -Carlos-

    -Carlos- New Member

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    I have the books. I will read them soon (I hope).
     
  4. nomadic myth

    nomadic myth New Member

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    I read them all recently. I thought it was great to be able to read in a short time books that were written over a thirty year period.

    I think the fact that he got Pulitzers for two of them says enough.

    I was sad when I finished the final one, because I had gotten kind of attached to Rabbit. He was quite endearing in the final book. Nibbling away at whatever came into reach, food and otherwise.
     
  5. Dogmatix

    Dogmatix New Member

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    Thanks Shade and Nomad. Really appreciate and value your imput. Seems like a big task to undertake if I'm not reasonably sure I'll enjoy it. Sounds like it will be a go for me sometime around November. Aqua I'll let you know when I get started. Thanks again guys!
     
  6. Dogmatix

    Dogmatix New Member

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    Oh and Shade thanks for the link. Palimpsest is a great site that I sometimes use and I'd not thought to look there.
     
  7. beer good

    beer good Well-Known Member

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    Rabbit, Run

    Rabbit had a wife and kids in Pennsylvania, Jack
    /:He went out for a ride, and then he went back
    Then he went out for a ride, and then he went back:/ (da capo al fine)


    Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom really is a spoiled little asshole, isn't he? Like a literary Al Bundy, still hung up on his brief turn as a high school star athlete, stuck in a dead-end sales job, watching his life go by as his wife expects her second child and is already slipping into permanent housewifeitis, afternoon TV and alcohol and all. Had this been a few years later, I guess the soundtrack would have been the Stones' "Mother's Little Helper". Only there's no one to really help Janice; Rabbit runs.

    And then it all starts to get complicated. Wonderfully complicated, at times; as a story, there's not much there, but Updike's prose is (for the most part) exhilarating to read (even in the somewhat clunky translation I read). It takes a lot to have a main protagonist like Rabbit and have him carry the novel - he's not really a BAD guy as such, just doesn't think things through, not to mention being a bit of a misogynist and still expecting things to work out if he can just find the right play like he used to do in baseball. Make a few substitutions, take the penalty shot, win the game. Everyone makes a big deal about him never fouling anyone on the court; off-court, it's a different matter - with no ref to stop the game when something goes wrong, Rabbit runs too far. He can never run too far.

    Updike adds a lot of depth to a fairly mundane tale and characters; discussing religion, classes, the losing side of the American dream - the people in the book are several-generation immigrants, hard-working protestants, Swedes, Germans, Anglos, doing their duty and being thoroughly miserable for it. (Yes, I quoted Springsteen for a reason.) And that's really the main problem with the novel; it's almost quite literally hopeless, a drab story told in gaudy colours. You end up wincing at almost every exquisitely worded phrase, because it's never going to end well.

    It's about responsibility, isn't it? Spouses to each other, parents to children, priests to parishioners, johns to whores, man to his fellow man etc. Or perhaps rather, the lack of it. The young reverend who thinks he can make a difference, the old one who chides him for being naive.

    Updike can write. DAMN, can he write. I honestly don't see how he got three more novels out of Rabbit Angstrom, but I think I'm going to find out at some point; the good description of the bad far outweighs the bad of the well-described (is that a sentence?)

    Yeah, just sittin' back, tryin' to recapture
    A little of the glory of
    But when time slips away, leaves you with nothin', mister
    But boring stories of glory days...


    4/5.
     

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