"If you have the guts to be yourself," he says, "other people'll pay your price."
That sentence is the heart of this book; Updike's taut novel is about...more"If you have the guts to be yourself," he says, "other people'll pay your price."
That sentence is the heart of this book; Updike's taut novel is about a man struggling to reconcile his desires and his duties. Rabbit is one of those inexplicably charming people that everyone likes at first, but is in reality too self-centered to think about anything but what's in his own pants.
The women characters are univerally unlikable, to the point that I wonder if Updike was really as misogynistic as it seems. Rabbit, for example, lusts to dominate and possess the women in his life, but rejects the responsibilities that come along with having a family. He convinces himself he's on a search for God, when he's really just interested in sex; he can't seem to separate the two. There's also a disturbing scene where the minister asks his wife's permission to get into bed with his young daughter, and the wife laughs it off as Freudian sexual antagonism.
I spent much of the book wondering how much of it comes from Updike's personal gender hangups, how much of it is his depiction of Rabbit as a character, and how much is just the warped gender relations and societal structure of the late 1950's (when the book was written.)
The prose alternates between lush descriptions of everyday life, which make the simplist things seem sordid, and overwrought, boredom-inducing paragraphs of filler. I admit to skimming a good deal of the filler. There's a lengthy and explicit sex scene between Rabbit and a prostitute, which might have been shocking at the time (?) but today seems like a real snoozer.
I'm giving this one two stars because Updike is a good enough writer to make me thoroughly hate his characters, his themes, and much of his prose. It was an unpleasant read, and I won't be picking this one up again... ever.(less)