Angela's Reviews > Rabbit Angstrom: The Four Novels

Rabbit Angstrom by John Updike
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Dec 29, 2009

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Read from May 12 to June 04, 2010

Since this is, essentially, four separate novels, I took it upon myself to review them separately. Now that's dedication.

Overall: Updike knows how to set a scene. The first novel takes place in an era I wasn't around to experience, but I was there. I got it. These novels teach you something about America, what we think is important and how we cope. And it's depressing. Also: even if you hate the characters, and have a dislike of the story itself, you can't deny that Updike is a fantastic writer. With that being said...

Rabbit, Run
I hate Rabbit. He's selfish and irresponsible, and it pains me to think that he believes anything he did throughout this entire novel is "right." Even when attempting to console his wife he sucks, and he can't imagine why she's always angry at him.

Rev. Eccles saved this story for me. If it were just about Rabbit, I wouldn't have cared in the slightest. Eccles is the only character, really, that feel authentic. The reverend who wants to save everything, who doubts things about himself, who just wants to be liked. His interactions with our protagonist almost made me feel sympathy for Rabbit as well, because that's what he wanted.

Perhaps there's hope for the lowest of the low after all.

Rabbit Redux
Holy cow, the politics. I realize we're in the 60s and all and everyone's up on arms about war/revolution/etc, but the political rantings were too much. Skeeter's section was too long and I really didn't care about his bantering with Rabbit. Skeeter is out of his mind (he think he's the black Jesus), Rabbit is [still:] mentally unstable, and some really messed up things happen (namely with drugs and sex). There's the summary of a good chunk of the book. Save yourself the trouble.

Rabbit hasn't changed at all, despite the fact his wife has now been the one to leave (which he encouraged) and he's supposedly caring for his adolescent son. I don't want to see what happens to Nelson. I'm afraid he'll be as messed up as his father.

The treatment of women, also, annoys me. "She's an empty shell until she gets laid," like she has no identity if she has no man. Weren't women viewed as individuals by this point? And what makes every male think they can get any woman they can? (And do, incidentally; seems more like Updike fulfilling his fantasies than any addition to the plot).

Rabbit is Rich
Man, writing reviews without spoiling the previous books is getting a little difficult.

As I expected, though wasn't looking forward to, Nelson is as messed up as his father. It's your typical, "I'm not going to be anything like you" and can't see that you most definitely are. Though I pitied Nelson. It's not his fault he has a skewed outlook on life. He gets PO'ed whenever his parents talk about moving out of Janice's mother's house because then no one would take care of him. Spoiled little brat.

I obviously have to touch upon this as well—my goodness, the sex. I've never read so much sexually explicit, detailed content. But I guess it's good, in a sense, to see a middle-aged couple (who I could swear would be divorced by now) that are still into each other, in their own indifferent kind of way. Though the Caribbean vacation? I can't even discuss it. (One, it would spoil things, and two... I felt dirty just reading it.)

I knew the "rich" in the title would be more than just money, though money was a big part of it. Sure, Rabbit has cash. He dresses nicely, drives a fancy car. And there's a lot of focus on that, pride of money in the midst of a crappy economy. But I think he eventually learns what being rich is, in life, not just the bank. And I really mean "eventually;" I'm talking the last paragraph or so of the book. Yes, it took that long to get to the plot.

Rabbit at Rest
I'll be honst, I wasn't paying much attention at this point. Once I figured out it's the same guy, getting stuck in the same situations, I just couldn't be bothered. I was waiting for it to finish. It's no surprise he messed up his kid even further, and the entire family is delusional over one thing or another. And hey, look, another book in which Rabbit sleeps with other women. I can't stand it anymore.

In conclusion: I should have stuck with just the first book. That was obviously the best of the lot. I get the feeling, throughout the novels, that Updike was trying to set it in its decade, to present what was going on in the world around Rabbit, but I just didn't care. It was always "here's Rabbit watching the news, and here are two pages about what he saw." I just don't care what's happening on the news. At least in Rabbit Redux his situation is related to what was happening in America, which (as explanation in the last novel) was "everyone did crazy things in the sixties." But beyond that? He could be any guy, at any time. Which I suppose is the point, but he paints a pretty pathetic picture of the American white male.

The rating probably seems a little high given my, erm, ranting. But really, it was Rabbit, Run that was this review's saving grace.
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