Rabbit Redux by John Updike

So, I finally decided to spend more time with my most reprehensible literary character ever (the only one I feel more passionate about is Emma on The Following, but that’s t.v. not books). I started reading the Rabbit books, which are listed as a whole in the Top Ten. You can see my entry on the first Rabbit book, Rabbit Runs, here. It will list for you what authors listed the Rabbit quartet as well as what I thought of Rabbit as a character to deserve the first line of this blog.

Ok, now that you all have hopefully read the original post, let me update everything after reading the second in the quartet, Rabbit Redux.

First, the basic plot: Rabbit is 10 years older than in Rabbit Run. He has been working at the print shop his dad does for the last ten years. He and Janice and their son Nelson now live in a house in the suburbs. Then he suspects Janice is cheating on him. The story begins. Updike mixes in a lot of the politics of the time, and events occurring (it’s the thick of the Vietnam War), the hippy movement et cetera. Updike’s writing ability is even better in this novel. In fact, I actually found myself _enjoying_ the story sometimes.

Rabbit is still…Rabbit. But oddly, he’s more likeable now that he’s become a tad more pathetic. He’s in his upper 30s, he knows that some of the dreams he once had are never going to happen now. Yet, his choices still are sometimes reprehensible. And the fact that he often makes choices but then whines at the results how it wasn’t really his fault, hasn’t changed.

Some of the stuff that struck me as almost humorous though is how, hm, how certain politic parties viewing the other side hasn’t changed at all.

Rabbit (or Harry, as he is now called)’s dad talking to him about his mother with Parkinson’s disease:
“Harry, God in his way hasn’t been all bad to your mother and me. Believe it or not there’s some advantages to living so long in this day and age. This Sunday she’s going to be sixty-five and come under Medicare. I’ve been paying in since ’66, it’s like a ton of anxiety rolled off my chest. There’s no medical expense can break us now. They called LBJ every name in the book but believe me he did a lot of good for the little man. Whereever he went wrong, it was in his big heart betrayed him. These pretty boys in the sky right now, Nixon’ll hog the credit but it was the Democrats put ’em there, it’s been the same story ever since I can remember, ever since Wilson–the Republicans don’t do a thing for the little man.” (the moon landing had recently happened, so that’s the pretty boys in the sky reference).

There’s others but apparently the places I had marked showing the Republican’s view of the Democrat/liberal got unmarked somehow.

In case you’re still wondering about how much Rabbit has changed, the answer is not very. Here’s something that a girl he becomes involved with says to him.

“It’s too late,” Jill tells him. “It’s too late for you to try to love me.”
He wants to answer, but there is a puzzling heavy truth in this that carries him under, his hand caressing the inward dip of her waist, a warm bird dipping towards its nest.”

Between him and his sister Mim:
“Why don’t you tend your own garden instead of hopping around nibbling at other people’s?” Mim asks. When she turns, her body becomes a gate, of horizontal stripes, her ass barred in orange.
“I have no garden,” he says.
“Because you didn’t tend it at all. Everybody else has a life they try to fence in with some rules. You just do what you feel like and then when it blows up or runs down you sit there and pout.”

Another thing about Updike that I’ve noticed. Sex between two characters is always real. That’s very different from most authors, even non romance ones. Sex tends to be a little idealized or is a rape, but not just normal awkward sex. Updike, even when writing about great sex tends to leave those awkward parts in there. Our perceptions of our bodies, the weird things we do when we’re propositioning sex, even what we think about when we masturbate and how it’s not quite normal sometimes. That’s part of the appeal of him I think, and what makes people rave about the Rabbit novels.

I’m still not ready to move the Rabbit novels by Updike onto my personal bests list, but Rabbit Redux definitely got me a little more interested and a little less likely to destroy the book out of disgust at the main character. I might even, *gasp*, read the 3rd and 4th a lot sooner than 4 months from now. We’ll see.

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2 responses to “Rabbit Redux by John Updike

  1. Pingback: I hate Rabbit. Rabbit is Rich by John Updike | Eleven and a Half Years of Books

  2. Pingback: Rabbit At Rest–John Updike | Eleven and a Half Years of Books

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