April Book Club Review: Rabbit, Run

Rabbit, Run

John Updike




The literary tastes of the men in iUMBC range from dudes who will only read a book all the way through if there is a steady barrage of explosions, shootings, and space aliens to dudes who were English majors and read books seeking out the aspects of a novel which must be present in order to create….I just fell asleep typing, but you get the idea. We had one guy who went so far as to declare he loved Russian novels. We shipped him to St. Louis, where I am told he finds the winters a bit too light-hearted for his tastes.

The point is, we are a varied minded breed, and so it must take an extraordinary piece of work to unite us all towards unanimous love or unanimous hate of a book.

Rabbit, Run is just such a book. There is no denying that the late Mr. Updike was a brilliant writer. That is to say, he was excellent at description, at creating and displaying his characters. His words were carefully crafted to make each page deliver his story in a way that made it feel as though the reader might have met these people, and is only now recalling their tale.

Maybe that is the reason we all hated this book so damn much. In Rabbit, Run, we were confronted with a character so selfish, so clueless, so undeniably immature and underdeveloped as a human, that we, the men of iUMBC, hated to turn each page to see what Rabbit would do next. One spur of the moment bad decision after another left us dreading the consequences of this man’s life. Who would he hurt next? Who would he use next? How would he abandon his next “friend”? Updike managed to make Rabbit so very real, that I as the reader looked up from the pages in disgust, and was ultimately frustrated to realize there was no actual person to confront about Harry Angstrom’s antics. I had only to rely on Mr. Updike to lead Rabbit in the right direction. And let me tell you, Mr. Updike most certainly did nothing of the sort.

All of this might have been forgivable if there were other characters to like, maybe even to side with. Sadly, this was not to be. Each person met through this Holden Caulfield-esque trip down the selfish rabbit hole (too many literary metaphors? I, like john Updike, apologize for nothing) is the worst-case-scenario of people to live life with. From a wife checked out and too drunk to care, to parents too afraid to interact with their children, to a preacher man who is more worried about enjoying golf with his anti-parishioner than actually helping*, each character Rabbit encounters makes the reader like the whole story less.

The bottom line here is, this is a story about people at their worst, just trying to figure out how to survive. The writing is pretty darn good, but the story left us in the Ultra Manly Book Club with such a depressed and angry feeling in our gut, that none of us could fathom reading the follow-up books (Rabbit Redux, Rabbit is Rich, Rabbit at Rest, Rabbit Remembered). Though Dave might, but that is because he is a literature major and smarter than the rest of us.

Read at your own risk my friends. But really, don’t.

*I am in the minority regarding the preacher Eccles. Most of the gents of iUMBC actually found him to be a sincere man trying to help the incredibly selfish and lost Harry Angstrom.

About john

After an unfortunate run in with a narwhal forced early retirement from his life as a pirate on the Seven Seas, John turned his attention to his second love, Mountain Watching. He is currently fighting to prove that Mount Huascaran has moved 3 feet to the left in the past year, and that one night he saw it crying. When he is not watching mountains, John can be found practicing for the National Caber Toss competition, having staring contests with jaguars, or helping little old ladies cross busy streets.

Currently Reading:
"River of Doubt" by Candace Miller
"The Buried Giant" by Kazuo Ishiguro
"Station Eleven" by Emily St. John Mandel
"S." by Doug Dorst and J.J. Abrams
"Hamilton" by Ron Chernow
"Storm Front" by Jim Butcher
"Lisrael" by Garth Nix

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