Updike’s Rabbit

Here I am, pushing 81 years, and have just started John Updike’s famous Rabbit books. Wife Cynthia and her sister Nancy read those books many years ago, so long ago that they’ve forgotten most of it. My education is just beginning?

Daughter Kate is letting me borrow the entire series of four Rabbit books. She’s happy that I’m finally reading them. They made a profound impression on her young life, not so very long ago.

At the moment I’m on the last section of Rabbit Redux, having completed Rabbit Run. The section I finally completed last evening, called Skeeter, was breathtaking and heart rending. It captures the mood and issues of the 1960’s with great insight I think. The young black man and Vietnam vet, Skeeter is a devilishly complex bitter guy; the young rich girl Jill, escaped from her Stonington, Conn., home, is brilliant, guilt ridden and incredibly needy, Rabbit’s son Nelson is coming of age in all this, and Rabbit himself is getting an education and confronting reality and truth in spite of himself.

I looked up Updike on Wikipedia and it turns out his Rabbit books are considered his most famous and successful. My favorite author (until Updike?) Ian McEwan heaps high praise:

Updike is a master of effortless motion – between third and first person, from the metaphorical density of literary prose to the demotic, from specific detail to wide generalisation, from the actual to the numinous, from the scary to the comic. For his own particular purposes, Updike devised for himself a style of narration, an intense, present tense, free indirect style, that can leap up, whenever it wants, to a God’s-eye view of Harry, or the view of his put-upon wife, Janice, or victimised son, Nelson. This carefully crafted artifice permits here assumptions about evolutionary theory, which are more Updike than Harry, and comically sweeping notions of Jewry, which are more Harry than Updike. This is at the heart of the tetralogy’s achievement. Updike once said of the Rabbit books that they were an exercise in point of view. This was typically self-deprecating, but contains an important grain of truth. Harry’s education extends no further than high school, and his view is further limited by a range of prejudices and a stubborn, combative spirit, yet he is the vehicle for a half-million-word meditation on postwar American anxiety, failure and prosperity. A mode had to be devised to make this possible, and that involved pushing beyond the bounds of realism. In a novel like this, Updike insisted, you have to be generous and allow your characters eloquence, “and not chop them down to what you think is the right size”.

I copied the above from the Wiki on Updike.

Here’s John Updike in the 1060’s. He was three years younger than me.

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  1. geologyjoe’s avatar

    whelp, looks like I know what to read next after i finish World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. :smile:

  2. Mardé’s avatar

    Wow, I’d never heard of that book, Joe, so just now I looked it up on Amazon. Sounds like great Brooks type dead panned humor about a serious subject via fantasy. I think Updike’s Rabbit books, while reality based, might have echos in people’s attitudes in World War Z.

  3. debi’s avatar

    If you get your comments emailed to you, can you give Kate my e m a i l ?
    Thank you 😀

  4. Aileni’s avatar

    Isn’t it good to read something utterly new and enjoy it? I have never read Updike but who knows. I reread the whole twelve novels of Anthony Powell’s ‘Dance to the Music of Time’ this year – a long stint with my eyes. Currently it just historical romance and fantasy at bedtime.
    My blogging has changed this year – my Monochrome site takes a chunk of time. I must swing your way more often once more – get back into the old swing.
    Stay fit.

  5. debi’s avatar

    Thank you, Sir,
    I sent one there, but didn’t get a reply. *runs away crying*

  6. Mardé’s avatar

    Yes, Aileni, it is great to read something utterly new and interesting. I just looked up Dance to the Music of Time and see it too is about individuals you grow through time, just about the period covered by the Rabbit series, but with many more individuals it seems. I’ll have to take a closer look at that.

    I too have been changing my blogging pattern, spending time on this blog in bursts of posting and then ignoring the blog. Part of the reason is my discovery of facebook, a bottomless pit of people and links. It’s too easy to use, that’s the trouble with that — although it can be fun.

    Also, I try to spend more time reading books, when I’m not dehydrating myself from lack of liquid consumption while having diarrhea!

  7. Mardé’s avatar

    Debi, don’t cry, Kate always answers her email.

  8. barbara’s avatar

    Hi Mard,

    How are you doing? I’m always happy for book suggestions. So many good books, so little time !

    This is perhaps a last au revoir before leaving for Quebec. See you soon; BTW; I’ll be trying to use the B&B’s PC’s to download pics over there- a road trip blog 😆

    Take care of your health & hugs to ya X

  9. Mardé’s avatar

    Thanks very much, Barbara, and you have a great trip. Should be fascinating and good luck downloading photos. Looking forward to your road trip blog.

    Just the other day some people discovered my three-year old photo-diary of a trip to the Maritime provinces. Here’s the link:
    http://mcseavey.org/blog/2005/08/21/trip-to-maritimes/

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