“Your life has no reflective content; it’s all instinct, and when your instincts let you down, you have nothing to trust. That’s what makes you cynical. Cynicism, I’ve seen it said somewhere, is tired pragmatism.” (Rabbit Redux by John Updike)
As expected: ten years of practice does make a better writer. Here, in Rabbit’s second incarnation, Updike is better able to flesh out his world and secondary characters. The paragraphs themselves reflect the experience, being fuller, fatter items taken as a whole, not the weak, skittering paragraphs of the first book. Superficially, Updike spends his time tracking Rabbit’s mind-set as his carefully unloved life falls apart. Rabbit reveals himself as an unsavory character, unable to consider the consequences his actions might have both on himself and those he loves.
But, in a very large sense, you do not read this book for Rabbit. You read this book because Updike is not scared of anything. He is does not shy away of describing, in minute detail, any part of the human body. He does not shirk his duty in lying bare the basest thoughts of his beloved characters. He does not worry that you may not like his language, his politics, his racial prejudices, or his heroes. He is not vague, or sappy, or particularly careful with your emotions. He is truthful and, for those who do not look away, endlessly fascinating.
For all that, Updike disappointingly relies far too heavily on the ‘sacrificial lamb’ plot. It seems that he knows no other. Hopefully the next book in the Angstrom series show as much development in plot crafting as the last one did in writing.
Buy – Borrow – TBR – Avoid
Incidental Learning: 1960’s america
Further Reading: More Updike – perhaps even the next book in the series, “Rabbit is Rich”.