Rabbit, Run


I’m sooo close to announcing my announcement.

Since I’m hard at work today, here’s a book review post I wrote a few years ago on a different blog.  I read it today and was reminded that I need to read the rest of this series!  Has anyone out there read the Rabbit series?  Be back soon.  -Brynna

John Updike’s Rabbit, Run was a strange experience for me.  Not too engaging, or riveting, or suspenseful.  In fact, I could definitely have stopped reading it and probably not have regretted it too much.  But it is on the list and I have time, and, mainly, I bought the book instead of borrowing it from the public library.  So I finished it.

Now, I really hate when someone else’s opinion of a book influences my opinion.  I must admit, though, that I was greatly affected upon my discovery of two of Updike’s subsequent “Rabbit” series books (Rabbit at Rest and Rabbit is Rich) on the Pulitzer prize winners list.  Needless to say, I am conflicted about this novel.

To completely (unfairly) reduce it, Rabbit, Run is a story about a discontent man.   Issues addressed are family dynamics, class issues, fidelity, tragedy, and parenting.  One of my favorite elements may be the joint “cause” of infidelity:  it is very rarely only one partner’s fault.  After Rabbit returns to his wife, everything that goes wrong is blamed on him.  This is a very interesting exaggeration of the concept of a man taking responsibility for his family.  Rabbit condemns himself just as much as others do, and finds stability in this blame.  This examination of guilt is one of the novel’s strongest points.

Its other main strengths, in my opinion, are found in Updike’s prose, which is stylistically gorgeous, understated but moving.  His voice is not amused or brash; Updike makes sure we view Rabbit’s rebellious tendencies as a result of his sadness.  This is not to say he justifies them.  The book, overall, is like a deep breath.  It enters slowly and leaves quickly, and you’re not quite sure what it did, except that you feel a little loss in the knowledge that your next breath might be — only, tragically — for utility.

The main downfall for me in John Updike’s works so far (granted, I’ve only read this book and his short story “A&P”) is Updike’s tendency to oversexualize a story.  This is done purposefully as an important quality of his male characters’ brains, but still it leaves me rather disturbed at the way he objectifies women, cheapens sex, and often subtly reduces men to sexual maniacs.  I can’t figure out if he considers this aspect of his male characters to be the norm.