BY SEAN CLARK
[This modern classic is a C4 Great Read.]
Author: John Updike
1960, Alfred A. Knopf
Filed Under: Literary.
I’m not sure how it took me quite so long to finally read this book (and others–it’s the beginning of a tetralogy–I’m now working on Rabbit, Redux), but I wish I had read this novel years ago. It reminds me a lot of On The Road, a favorite of mine that really drew me back into literature at the beginning of my college career. Updike’s prose is lucid, his descriptions and dialogue sharp. This book has some expertly-rendered characters, and can be used as a model for young novelists on how to pace plot properly. Rabbit, Run is unequivocally a Great Read, and a book just about any reader will enjoy.
Rabbit is Harry Angstrom; his nickname is derived because his facial features resemble that of a bunny. He is a former high school basketball star who now sells MagiPeeler produce peelers door to door and lives in an apartment in his Pennsylvania hometown with a pregnant wife, Janice, and their son. As the book opens, Rabbit decides he doesn’t want to go home. He abandons his family and drives off. He only makes it half a day’s drive away before returning to home, but not to his family.
He crashes with his old basketball coach, and soon after takes up a relationship with a local prostitute with whom he moves in. This is a domestic story: there’s no high adventure, no murder mystery, not even much of a love triangle. It’s a book about ambivalence and insecurity. Rabbit acts much like his timid namesake, escaping the hutch, but not daring roam beyond the perimeter of the barn. Rabbit faces increasing pressure to return to his family, to conform to adult life. Taking place in the late 1950′s, the grinding of generations is audible. As things play out, Rabbit’s search for self identity (or self indulgence) affects more and more people around him.
I’ll stop there, I don’t want to give away too much plot stuff. If you haven’t read this before, do yourself a favor and pick it up. Updike is a phenomenal writer, and this is a rewarding and relatively quick read.
Similar Reads: On The Road (Kerouac), Things and A Man Asleep (Perec)