“Everybody who tells you how to act has whisky on their breath. ” (Rabbit, Run by John Updike
Rabbit, Run was Updike’s first novel; he originally intended for it to be a novella and, at the time of writing it, didn’t even consider himself to be a novelist. (paraphrased from introduction to Rabbit Angstrom)
Even if you neglected to read this informative statement before starting in on the book itself, my guess is: you’d be able to tell. This book has ‘first attempt’ written all over it. You can foresee Updike’s greatness in his insight into characters, but the novel is so sparsely flushed out that it barely even suggests an environment – it hardly has the outline of a real plot. Yet there is something about Rabbit that compels the reader on, on and on, through the four books of Rabbit’s life. Perhaps it’s all the sex scenes… but more likely it’s Rabbit’s ability to act impulsively and without reason, just to see what will happen to himself next.
Ah, the Sex scenes. If you haven’t read Updike before, you probably won’t have associated such a great mid-century name with sex. But there it is. Rabbit, Run must have been quite scandalous in its time. Updike’s subject material is composed almost entirely of the sex lives, affairs, and impure thoughts of normal people. Yet, despite being absolutely riddled with explicit scenes, Updike is primarily a moral author. He simply makes his claims about the best way to live in the most subtle, least Victorian-novel way, possible.
Buy – Borrow – TBR – Avoid
Ending: open, ambiguous
Incidental Learning: How to Recognize a First Novel, mid-west culture in 1960’s, religion
Further Reading: You will not be able to stop yourself from picking up the next Rabbit book, which starts precisely 10 years after the ending of the first book. You probably don’t want to start reading this series at all if you don’t have time for the 1,519 pages that make up the whole tetralogy.