I began the Rabbit quartet by John Updike, with the first volume of Rabbit, Run. Dave and I discussed it and decided I’d break it up into four separate entries. I’m not sure when the next one will be however as I’m not overly excited to read the next book.
Before I begin on the reason for that, the Rabbit novels were listed by the following authors: Lee K. Abbott, Julian Barnes, G.D. Gearino, Ken Kalfus, Thomas Mallon, Tom Perrotta, Roxana Robinson, Scott Spencer, and Scott Turow.
I will begin by saying that Updike is a fantastic author. He captures scenes and characters in very concise terms. He doesn’t flinch from uncomfortable things and is willing to take the leap that when Rabbit, Run was published, most weren’t willing to take. He talks about sex in a frank manner. And he shows a world that is more muddy than most presented in fiction, one that resembles reality a bit more than most. I don’t think that’s the reasons I dislike him though, I can think of other books that have a similar feel and I’m okay with them.
I think the main thing is, I truly and completely loathe the main character Rabbit. People toss the term “millennial” around now to mean someone of a certain generation but more importantly someone of a certain character, lazy, entitled et cetera. The amusing thing to me is how much people of the age of “millennials” aren’t really that way…and how much people of prior generations are. Rabbit Angstrom is a “millennial”. By the end of the book, I couldn’t find anything to even redeem him with.
One day Rabbit decides he can’t stand his wife, their marriage, being a dad. So, he takes off in his car, determined to just drive the distance until he finds a place he likes better. He ends up returning to his city. He seeks out his high school basketball coach (Rabbit is a bit of a local high school legend for his basketball skills) who puts him up overnight in his little stinky man cave above an athletic club. Then takes him out that night with a girl and her friend. Rabbit eventually realizes the girl, Ruth, is a whore. But he latches onto her and moves in with her for a few weeks. Oh, and he left his wife 9 months pregnant too. She’s a drinker.
And I just decided I can’t really fully go on with what happens because it will get into ruining the plot. And for those of you that are thinking of reading it, I do still recommend it. It’s an amazingly written book. Just because I hate the main character doesn’t mean you will too.
But. Rabbit is a man who has the need of always being loved. He can do the most reprehensible thing and two minutes later be staring at some strange woman’s breasts and convincing himself of her insatiable need for him. He levels people. Like, when he needs love and forgiveness from somewhere, his wife and her parents are fine. But as soon as he feels he has it from his mother, he completely destroys his wife.
The following thing is said about him in the book that captures my feelings exactly I think.
“No, you don’t do anything. You just wander around with the kiss of death. Get out. Honest to God, Rabbit, just looking at you makes me sick.”
Truly, his actions in this book towards women made me want to vomit in places (and I’m not overly sensitive to perceived slights against femininity in my reading choices) and his treatment of men also made me want to vomit sometimes (not for the same reasons though).
Rabbit Angstrom is not a likeable man. The book is well written. But, am I excited to go read another book that no matter how well written it is, I run the risk of hating the main character while being forced to spend hours with him. (That should tell you the quality of Updike’s writing though that I would feel truly like I had spent that time with Rabbit personally).