Townhouse Books

Monday, September 04, 2006

Rabbit Redux: John Updike

OK, this cured me of Updike, at least for a while. Dated and showing the worst of the late '60s and early'70s, misogynistic to such an excess it was boring (c-word literally on almost every page), with painful old-school race issues (Rabbit staring at the palms of the hands of the "Negro" Skeeter and wondering at their whiteness). Set 10 years after the first one, Rabbit's wife moves in with her lover (a Greek man, leaving open space for more derogatory racial remarks), abandoning Rabbit with their 13-year-old son. Rabbit takes up with an 18-year-old hippie/rich kid/hooker/druggie with visions of God who moves in along with a Black Power type of guy on the run from the law, and they all seem to have sex with her, maybe even the kid, I don't know. They spend inordinate amounts of time sitting around the house, listening to the girl play music, debating Vietnam (for pages and pages) and reading aloud from "The Life & Times of Frederick Douglas," passages of which are reprinted in their entirely with Rabbit's musings. Or something like that. I finished it but skimmed much throughout. I'm hating you today, Updike.


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  • So, I read the first Rabbit book because I figured it was good for me. All in all, I thought it was pretty lame. Boring people living a particularly boring life.

    I mean, he's a used car salesman (if you're generous) and his wife is an alcoholic. There's an affair and the whole thing is pretty cliché. Until the end of the book when...WHAM!!!

    Not that I like getting WHAM-ed. Especially not like that. Anyway, the ending didn't make me appreciate the book anymore, although it definitely explains why everyone is so screwed up in the later books.

    Of course, Emily makes this book sound down right fascinating compared to the first one...


    By jch1530, at 3:19 PM  

  • I have been thinking for some years now that I gave Updike a raw deal in high school, when I did a project on Short Stories. My teacher suggested I read Updike and I started to read some of his collection. I don't even remember why but I so profoundly disliked his writing that I refused to do anything but skim a few so I could get the gist to present them. I don't think it helped that I also covered Roald Dahl's short stories in the same project... they were pure joy.

    Recently, I thought maybe I was just too young then to grasp his genius. After reading Emily's post, I think I will avoid Updike for much longer. Thanks for saving me the time and energy!

    By LPD, at 12:37 PM  

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