Laura's Reviews > Rabbit, Run

Rabbit, Run by John Updike
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's review
May 18, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: pulitzer-prize-project
Recommended for: writers
Read in May, 2008

For the three days since I've finished this book I've been going back and forth about whether this is 5 stars, or 4, or 3. Part of the problem is John Updike himself. Liking him as a writer somehow feels politically incorrect. Even mentioning him in mixed company gets glances, "you're reading HIM?" The Rabbit books have always had an aura of ho hum who cares to me. I'd hear Rabbit blah blah and tune it out like it's hockey. I knew Updike was competent, certainly anyone picking up a random issue of the New Yorker would be aware of that. But I honestly didn't think his books would speak to me.

I was wrong. I'm in a little bit of a post-novel haze, reminiscent of how I felt after finishing my first Fante novel, where I'm asking myself, why don't other writers speak of this person all the time and how is it that I haven't read him sooner? Seriously, Updike could be one of the most underrated overrated writers of all time. Everyone knows his name and yet contemporary writers rarely call him an inspiration. I always read everything on 2 levels: as a reader and as a writer. I can't help it. Sure, I can sit back and enjoy a book, but even then I'm picking it apart to try to understand WHY I'm enjoying it. So I'm sitting here now, for three days now, trying to figure out what he does and how he does it so well.

Since I was told I would hate John Updike because he's a racist misogynist, I wasn't prepared for the level of empathy and depth and real understanding of the human condition he presents. Truly brilliant the way he can jump heads and bodies and take the reader right along without a hitch. I'm trying to write this without spoilers but I just have to say I've never felt my heart break through any work of fiction or film or Kodak commercial the way this book broke my heart. Like real up-all-night can't control the sobs weeping because he's just that good. He manages to make you empathize with everyone, despised or not, and the course of events is both utterly tragic and completely logical. As a reader I probably would not feel the need to reread this book because it's not plot-heavy, not particularly complex. But as a writer I'd put it next to my other bibles and refer to it over and over as one of those magic texts that achieve what so few writers are able to achieve: Life. Truth. Depth on the page.

So I'm on a John Updike bender at the moment. I've heard the Rabbits go downhill, so we'll see. But for now I'm enjoying the ride.

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Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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message 1: by Daisy (new)

Daisy Wow, I'm going to have to check that out. I realized that I had one of his books in my library that I never read - Roger's Version - and after our lunch I decided to pick it up and give him a try.

Hey did you hear how Salman Rushdie and Updike insulted each other lately?

Updike: " Rushdie as a literary performer suffers, I think, from being not just an author but a cause celebre and a free speech martyr."

Rushdie responded by advising updike to stick to writing parochial tales about suburban wife swapping.

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