Jogle's Reviews > Rabbit at Rest

Rabbit at Rest by John Updike
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Jun 24, 11

bookshelves: fiction, pulitzer-winners
Read in May, 2011

The final novel in the series (Updike later wrote a 180 page novella as part of the Licks of Love short story compilation), and Rabbit is semi retired and is living partly in Florida (I think you Yanks call these Snowbirds?). In the late 80’s His wife has found new drive and energy, his son is reborn into a social counsellor career… but Rabbit is still drifting along. His past life is dying all around.

Rabbit is not likeable, but after four books I feel an affinity with him, almost verging on empathy. He has made so many mistakes, and those mistakes are reflected in the complications of the life that now surrounds him. But… they are human mistakes and seemingly made without malice. It is as if events, in his mind, were out of his control. A real life Truman show, warts and all, and Harry Angstrom has followed the script, with the changing scenery of late 20th century America. His body is failing, but inside he is still a boy, the basketball star, and he is waiting for something to happen.

Updike is at his slick best describing Rabbit’s life in his decrepit late middle age. Updike himself grew old writing these novels, and I can’t help picturing Updike as an extension of Rabbit, which I know is ridiculous. He’s a character, in a novel… but somehow Updike will always be Rabbit. I think that is where Updike comes in for so much criticism…in reality the writing is so good that this anti-hero becomes a personification of the author and therefore the whipping boy for all Rabbit’s faults. The writing is sharp and clever, with so much contemporary culture references and the usual detailed descriptions of strip malls and the surrounding geography that places Rabbit in a time. Love him or hate him, Rabbit is one of the great characters of American fiction and this ‘final’ instalment is a very good finale.
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