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Rabbit Angstrom #1-3

Rabbit Novels: Rabbit, Run and Rabbit Redux

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The first and second novels in John Updike's acclaimed quartet of Rabbit books -- now in one marvelous volume.

RABBIT, RUN

"Brilliant and poignant . . . By his compassion, clarity of insight, and crystal-bright prose, [Updike] makes Rabbit's sorrow his and out own.
The Washington Post

"Precise, graceful, stunning, he is an athlete of words and images. He is also an impeccable observer of thoughts and feelings."
The Village Voice


RABBIT REDUX

"Great in love, in art, boldness, freedom, wisdom, kindness, exceedingly rich in intelligence, wit, imagination, and feeling -- a great and beautiful thing . . . these hyperboles (quoted from a letter written long ago by Thomas Mann) come to mind after reading John Updike's Rabbit Redux.
The New York Times Book Review


"Updike owns a rare verbal genius, a gifted intelligence and a sense of tragedy made bearable by wit. . . . A masterpiece.
Time

640 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1981

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About the author

John Updike

433 books2,087 followers
John Hoyer Updike was an American writer. Updike's most famous work is his Rabbit series (Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; Rabbit Is Rich; Rabbit At Rest; and Rabbit Remembered). Rabbit is Rich and Rabbit at Rest both won Pulitzer Prizes for Updike. Describing his subject as "the American small town, Protestant middle class," Updike is well known for his careful craftsmanship and prolific writing, having published 22 novels and more than a dozen short story collections as well as poetry, literary criticism and children's books. Hundreds of his stories, reviews, and poems have appeared in The New Yorker since the 1950s. His works often explore sex, faith, and death, and their inter-relationships.

He died of lung cancer at age 76.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 76 reviews
Profile Image for Troy Ketch.
111 reviews
September 26, 2013
Rabbit is not always a likeable character, but that may be his best quality. We are not always nice to know; Harry reminds me of that. These novels challenge, make me uncomfortable, make me think and reflect. Read them, but be careful. They are dangerous.
Profile Image for Jo Bennie.
496 reviews28 followers
November 30, 2014
A collection of the first three of Updike's Rabbit novels, this is an incredible depiction of American life in the latter half of the 20th century. Harry 'Rabbit' Angstrom is a very normal middle class man, not particularly likeable, heroic or awful, living in the small Pennsylvania suburb Mt Judge, set at the foot of Mt Judge mountain close to the large coal industry town of Brewer. He exhibits much of the same mix of good and bad actions as any of us, cowardice in the face of adversity, bigotry and closed mindedness and through these books we see him grow from early adulthood just coming down from stardom as local basketball hero through to middle aged car salesman. We see social mores, material culture, politics, music and gender roles change through the very personal lens of the extremely local. Updike's use of extended metaphor, his attention to period detail and the quality of his writing makes this a really rewarding long read.

In the first book Rabbit Run, we are in the late 1950s, Rabbit has a young family, wife, son and small flat. Rabbit comes home to find his pregnant wife Janice drinking and watching television, and simply runs. He gets as far as Virginia before turning for home, but doesn't go back to his house. Instead he stays with local minister Eccles before taking up with Ruth, a semi-prostitute, leaving her just as he gets the news that Janice is giving birth to their daughter Becky. But he runs again and tragedy ensues.

As the second book, Rabbit Redux, opens we have moved forward to 1969 and Rabbit is working with his father at the printing works. Janice leaves Rabbit for car salesman Charlie Stavros leaving him to care for their son Nelson. Rabbit takes in Jill, a young small town girl searching for herself, and politically motivated Skeeter. Between them they introduce Rabbit to counterculture, drugs and civil right. Tragedy strikes again leaving a schism between Rabbit and Nelson, and at the end of the book Janice returns.

Rabbit is Rich opens in 1979, Rabbit is now head salesman at Janice's father's Toyota dealership, working with Charlie Stavros but still living in Janice's mother's house. Nelson is at college but returns without finishing his course, trailing with him first Melanie and then his pregnant girlfriend Theresa, usually known as Pru. Nelson wants what his father got, an opening at the dealership, and father and son come into innumerable conflicts caused simply by misunderstandings and personality clashes. Rabbit and Janice are still together and finally move into a house of their own as the book closes.
Profile Image for Isabel J.
16 reviews11 followers
July 10, 2018
The most significant aspect of this book is the fact that the main character is so inept. He is a blind, selfish, immature piece of shit, and that is what makes the novel insightful, tragic, and viscerally, poignantly true.

Rabbit, Run is great. Rabbit Redux is not.
Profile Image for Ema Asmadi.
867 reviews
April 8, 2018
It takes time to finish it but it's worth. So, I must read the 4th book.
Profile Image for Realini.
3,251 reviews68 followers
June 27, 2016
Rabbit, Run by John Updike
Very good, even if I do not share the extreme enthusiasm expressed by critics, scholars and writers for this novel

It took a strange itinerary to come back to Rabbit, Run.

The book is included among the best modern novels and it is on the list: Time 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005:

- http://entertainment.time.com/2005/10...

Some time ago, in 2008 or 9, I have decided to try and read the best books and found some pertinent lists on the subject.
One is the TIME list and others would include the Guardian, Modern Library and the lists of prize winners: Pulitzer and the Man Booker.

When I first read Rabbit Run I was not exhilarated and there is a rating of just three stars and no first review.
That was in 2012 and I can even say May 1st, because goodreads has the record of when I have rated every novel…
After some years, I found that both Rabbit is Rich and Rabbit at Rest have won the Pulitzer and started to read them.
The order was not chronological, but I am not sure how much, if any impact this had on the pleasure of reading about Harry Angstrom.

There have been passages, chapters that did not go well, albeit it is a relief to some extent to read a “liberated, modern” literature, that not only is allowed to use fuck frequently, but it delves into sexual promiscuity, positions and all kinds of fantasies and excesses.
In the other notes on the volumes of the Angstrom saga I have elaborated on the various rejections of what seemed somewhat outrageous to this reader…
Not so atrocious as to discourage a complete reading of the whole tale and a return to the first instalment.
There are probably unfulfilled, hidden and repressed desires that may be satisfied by the meeting with this huge erotic saga.
Notwithstanding that, there are aspects that agree with me and then some twists of the plot that are abhorrent.
Without giving any details I would just say that the tragedy of this first volume diminishes my pleasure of re-reading.
There is also the aspect of the lack of punishment for the guilty party, apart from having to live with the responsibility.
Blame is even apportioned wrongly, at least in the view of a man who might be too conservative, dated in his views …I hope not as bad as a male chauvinist pig.
But I feel that Janice Angstrom is ninety percent guilty and her husband holds the rest of the blame, surprisingly not in the eyes of the law or of friends or relatives…

- Yes, alcohol is involved, but that does not really absolve her
- Actually, the fact that Harry Angstrom, Rabbit runs is also caused by the heavy drinking of his spouse, if you ask me…
-
I have returned to this first part of the adventures of Rabbit because I grew fond of the main character, to a certain degree.
Then there were aspects that needed a sort of closure or better understanding.
It is clearer now why Nelson became such an obnoxious presence, albeit that does not make him any less detestable in later stages of the story.
Overall:

- Very good, even if I do not share the extreme enthusiasm expressed by critics , scholars and writers for this novel
Profile Image for Cynthia.
48 reviews3 followers
July 13, 2009

This was a tough book to rate. I started to read Updike shortly following his death after I read a few of his poems in the New Yorker. I was immediately a fan and could not wait to read Rabbit, Run and Rabbit, Redux.

He is such a fabulous writer, he loves words and uses them better than most.

The Rabbit books take place in Suburban Americana in the late fifties/ early sixties.

Both are great reads and are fun "slices of life" from that time, however, there was some unexpected tragedies that take place that were hard for me to swallow. I don't want to be a spoiler so I will not elaborate! This is the reason I could not give the book a 5.

That said, he is a master at his craft and I am looking forward to reading the next story, Rabbit, Rich.
March 24, 2016
I really enjoyed the original Rabbit Run, but I found the sequel, Rabbit Redux, to be a bit slow and filled with far too many political or society issues. Of course I do realize these were tipping points during the time the story was written, but I lost interest due to the continual use of them rather than story which for me, is what matters most. Updike is clearly one of the iconic American authors of his generation and its a book all must read along with the Hemingway, Steinbeck and many others that brought American literature into the limelight.
19 reviews
August 12, 2010
John Updike totally impresses me as a writer. In these novels he basically gives a cultural history of America from the 50s to the 90s through the mundane lives of a messed up, but typical, suburban family. The descriptions, dialogues, thoughts going through rabbit's head, are all so nicely crafted and convincing. It's raunchy but so is life.
Profile Image for Amy.
154 reviews
December 29, 2011
I am a huge Updike nerd, so I cannot given an unbiased review of the Rabbit series. What I will say, though, is there IS a reason why I am a huge Updike nerd and that certainly isn't lost in these books.
Profile Image for quimney.
2 reviews
February 24, 2017
Beautifully tragic. Rabbit tests the christian sensibility to love a sinner. Updike's descriptions of the world are so unflinchingly raw that it leaves you feeling uneasy in your own skin. This sets a new standard by which to judge the rest of the bookshelf.
Profile Image for Don.
541 reviews62 followers
August 27, 2011
Rabbit,Run is the first of Updike's Angstrom trilogy.

We meet Harry Angstrom - known as Rabbit - one time high school basketball star, now in his mid-20s, living a life with a wife he alternatively despises and loves, and a waste of time job. One evening on returning from work, Rabbit finds his pregnant wife at home in an alcoholic stupor, their infant son in the care of his parents.

Rabbit runs for the first time. A long night time drive that takes from the family home in the Pennsylvanian town of Mount Judge/Brewer down into Virginia, and then back again. A meeting with his high school coach brings him into contact with Ruth, a sometimes attractive part-time prostitute he bullies into a relationship he tells himself he loves. Meanwhile the Rev Eccles, an Episcopalian minister makes the salvation of Rabbit his personal mission.

Updike's narrative of Rabbit's inner life suggests that he is a man with strong spiritual impulses, but of no firm faith. He is also fickle and inconsistent, capable of revising and reversing his commitments and resolutions within the blink of an eye.

But the picture of Angstrom that most accords with his actuality is built up through the way he interacts with others. Through his wife. coach, Ruth, Eccles, Eccle's wife, his in-laws and his parents, Rabbit's very mediocrity becomes a force of nature, capable of contradicting other more powerful perceptions of life and bringing tragedy into the lives of all. This, of course, is exactly what happens.

A good start to the other two novels.....

31/1/11

On to Rabbit Redux.......

10 years later. Rabbit has advanced to middle age. He has been back with Janice all this time, and their son, Nelson, is on the verge of adolescence. He works as a linotypist, his father's trade. In the back, Armstrong and Aldrin circle the moon, US cities explode in a summer of 'race riots', and Nixon directs the war in Vietnam...

Janice deals with her own incipient middle age by launching into an affair with a co-worker, the interesting, sensual and liberal Charlie Stavros. Harry is none of these things, but he reacts to Janice's infidelity with stoicism. He feels he has little to offer her anyway and, after an evening of sex, suggests to her that she should continue her affair but with more discretion. She responds by walking out on him altogether and going to Stavros.

Rabbit then tumbles into unfathomable directions. Scarcely able to suppress his racism, he nevertheless responds to a suggestion from a black colleague that he should meet him for a evening of drinking in a bar in the negro district of Brewer. There he meets Babe, a pianist/singer, who appears to coax him into what seems an unlikely degree of openmindedness. This involves meeting the radical black power mystic, Skeeter, and Jill, an 18 year old poor rich girl, recovering from an obsessive relationship with a controlling drug addict.

Jill comes home with Rabbit and they begin a sexual relationship which Updike sets out without pulling punches. His earlier experiment with oral sex (with Ruth and then his wife) becomes the mainstay of his relationship with Jill. Jill aspires to a universalistic spirituality which savagely contrasts with her own despair with the direction her life is taking. She draws Nelson into a relationship in which she is part older sister and part guru and guide.

The Skeeter comes into the nest Rabbit has established in the home he used to share with Janice. On the run from the police, the young black man's entry conflicts with Harry's fundamentally conservative values. Skeeter goads him as 'Chuck' and 'cracker', a white man absorbed into the history of slavery and race oppression who is incapable of challenging it. But Skeeter is not political in any conventional sense. His insights and drug use have led him to the exaggerated self-image as a potential messiah - now on the run, but soon to appear in glory.

He is also viciously misogynistic. Women in his world are no more than 'cunts' who are there to be used. His particular use for Jill is to require from her the account of the god she felt she had met at the height of her drug orgy with her former lover. The young woman is dragged back in the direction of that world.

Harry himself hovers in a nightmare where he has lost the power to act on his own behalf. Only in hid dealing with his neighbours, who confront him with the demand that he gets rid of Skeeter, is he decisive.

But even that is the cause of disaster. One night whilst out with Nelson visiting the home of the wall-eyed Peggy Fosnacht who has figured as a background character in the two novels to date, his home is firebombed. Skeeter escapes, but Jill succumbs to the smoke and flames.

Harry, and Nelson, is back with his parents, in the presence of his dominant, adoring mother, now dying of Parkinson's disease. His sister, Mim, long away from the family scene earning a living as a high class prostitute moving in the company of west coast gangsters, returns briefing to offer Rabbit a take on his life which suggests that he has never really learned to live it. Then Janice, anguished by the drawing of her relationship with Stavros to its final close, places herself in a position where reconciliation seems possible. That is where the characters stand at the end of this middle novel.

Harry Angstrom's reactions often seem implausible in this novel, but Updike seems to be using this fable of a middle American family falling apart as an opportunity to say something big about the predicament of the United States itself, with its famous dream proving so malleable in the hands of achievements in space, hippy mystics, black radicals, South East Asian entanglements, and its middle classes losing the purchase they once had in American neighbourhoods and the American economy.

14 August 2011

Rabbit is Rich, the third book in the Angstrom trilogy...

Ten years on, back with Janice, and prosperous. He has inherited the top dog position in his father in-law's Toyota dealership, and the new American mood for fuel economy means that he is cashing in.

The dominant relationship is now with Nelson, self-centred, directionless, over-indulging in liquor or drugs, and caught up in entangled relationships which have provoked a crisis in his life. Rabbit views his son with a mixture of contempt, frustration, but a sense that he is responsible in large part for his predicament.

The Angstrom lifestyle is now comfortably middle class - though they do not own a home, living instead with Janice's mother in a house Harry finds gloomy and oppressive. He and Janice hang around with a nouveau riche set like themselves, revolving around tennis, golf and cocktails at a country club that is someway off being truly top drawer, but adequate for people like themselves. The tone for this social circle is set by a slightly older (in his 50s) man, Wade Murkett. Like any dog leading a pack of this type, Wade has the most desirable mate and Rabbit lusts have Cindy in his private fantasies

There is another fantasy in his life - the possibility he has a daughter from his relationship with Ruth 20 years before. Though he has had no personal contact with her, he knows that Ruth married and had children with her farmer husband in a rural out beyond Brewer. A chance encounter with a girl he thinks could be his daughter leads to a discovery of her whereabouts. But for the bulk of this book this knowledge is placed on hold, as Harry ponders the rights and wrongs of introducing himself into the life of this young women.

Nelson's plight worsens as the sullen and unpleasant young man gives up his studies at Kent State U and announces his wish to join his father in the car dealership. Rabbit is appalled at the prospect. Though comfortable, the entry of the young buck would undermine the relationship he has with Charlie Stavros - his confidant and most experienced salesman. Nelson appears to have few of the personal skills needed to be successful in the trade. But it is also revealed that he has gotten a girl, Pru, pregnant during his time away at Kent, and his life now appears to be closing in around the prospect of an early marriage.

He does, however, read things into America's economic predicament which have eluded his father. Whilst Harry sees only American flight from conspicuous consumption driven by the energy crisis, Nelson's hedonism sees the American desire for brash statement in a niche market for gas guzzling convertibles. Without his father's authority, he purchases three such cars with the intention of selling them on at a profit. When Rabbit finds out and indicates his flat refusal to go that route, Nelson petulantly crashes two of the cars together.

Meanwhile Harry and Janice explore other avenues for extravagance in austerity USA in their middle class social circle. A trip by three of the couples to the Caribbean leads to an experiment in wife swapping, with uneven outcomes for all involved....

In the end Nelson gets married and he and Janice move into their long-postponed house of their own. As they contemplate late middle age from an apparently comfortable vantage point, clouds are obscurely gathering on the horizon. Nelson flees, though briefly, his marriage after the birth of his daughter and the consequence of their Caribbean experiment threaten in as yet unclear.

But he has finally forced a meeting with Ruth and it appears, though not without absolute certainty, that the girl is not his daughter. Ruth - tremendously obese though apparently content with her lot, suggests that throughout all these years of his life there has been another way of living that he has known little about. She will not divulge any of its secrets to him.

And so the trilogy ends. One feels if ever there was a fourth volume - with Rabbit standing on the cusp of old age - it would again be set within the parameters of a middle America threatened by, what? the consequences of Reagan's efforts to reassert a US global authority at the point when the system slips into its dottage?

Excellent set of books - glad I took these weeks out over the summer of 2011 to absorb myself in them.....

27 August 2011

Profile Image for Schmacko.
246 reviews63 followers
February 16, 2009
Seldom do I finish a whole book in one day, but after taking four days to read John Updike’s first novel—Rabbit, Run—I grew curious about Updike, and I sank into the sequel, Rabbit Redux, and finished it in a little over 24 hours (while I was burning sound files and cleaning a nasty virus off of my computer… yay, multi-tasking…)

What started this read-a-thon? Well, you might know Updike died recently. Our book club kind of stumbled into picking his first novel for our February book. (That sort of ambling decision-making our club is going through is a little frustrating right now, but it certainly fits the theme of the first book.) After I finished the first book, I wanted more of a sense of where Updike was coming from with his character of Rabbit, so I read the second book immediately.

Rabbit, Run was a contemporary book set in 1960, in a fictional manufacturing town of Brewer, Pennsylvania. Rabbit Angstrom, a young husband and father in a dead-end job, goes out for cigarettes for his pregnant, drunk wife Janice. While he’s out, he decides to leave Janice, “running” from a life he has grown frustrated with. Rabbit, who was once a great basketball star and is still a bit of a lothario, has no plans. He is utilizing his charm to chase whatever fancies him at a moment. His struggle is a curious blend of fear of stasis and the want for domesticity; after leaving Janice, Rabbit almost immediately falls into a cozy cohabitation with a part-time prostitute, Ruth.

What’s fascinating and frustrating about the novel is how Updike defines Rabbit mainly by action. The third-person narrative doesn’t explain Rabbit’s need to flee, to start over. It’s as if we are to accept this as a somewhat destructive but intrinsic part of Rabbit’s nature (just as are his narcissism and his autocratic sex drive.) Every so often, Updike would allow a long paragraph or two of Rabbit’s internal thoughts, but these really do not do much to elucidate.

What’s even more frustrating is how Updike often ignores the women in the Rabbit books, only allowing some motivation or insight at critical parts of the book—as if women and their thoughts, wants and needs are a total mystery to Updike. (Interestingly, Updike also wrote The Witches of Eastwick, which I assume is more female-centric, maybe...I haven’t read it). You notice this ignorance of women in the Rabbit books in stark contrast to how Updike gives insight into ALL of the men—into the married couple’s fathers, into an old coach of Rabbit’s and into a priest bent on helping Rabbit. The one woman Updike seems to know well is the cold and smart atheist wife of the minister.

It doesn’t make for a bad novel, but it does make me interested in the many holes it presents. We never understand what the prostitute-girlfriend Ruth wants. We never quite grasp the core of Rabbit’s mom’s animosity toward her own son and his new bride and life. We don’t know why Rabbit is preternaturally determined to flee. We can’t understand why, in the light of her lovely child and a financially supportive family (even with her critical mother), Rabbit’s wife Janice cannot completely quit drinking—why she is prone to self-destructive depression.

What’s fun about the second book—the sequel Rabbit Redux—is how much Rabbit has turned into an old fart in just ten years. Gone is his carelessness, and in its place are deeper sexism, more racism and a general quiet acceptance that the world is going to Hell in that proverbial handbasket. The Vietnam War is failing, his son is turning into a bit of an androgynous hippie, and Rabbit’s relationship is in serious trouble. It doesn’t help that Rabbit has transformed into such a crusty, inflexible, judgmental prick.

When a major upheaval happens in his life, Rabbit slowly and somewhat reluctantly enters into the current world of 1970. His house becomes a sort of commune, making room for a drug-dealing ex-vet—he’s also black. Rabbit’s son brings home a free-love girl who brings the palpable scent of sex and competition to a house of three men.

Again, the holes are there. Why does Rabbit go against his earlier nature and start to accept the promiscuity and drugs? What happened to Rabbit’s earlier longing to flee? Why does this girl put herself into a dangerous and sexually-charged situation? How come no one mentions how bad things are getting at the house?

I sense that Updike used the Rabbit character as a reflection of the time, to explore contemporary issues. However, Rabbit is always thoroughly male—even a bit misogynistic, self-centered and narrow-minded—that using this character as a mirror raises more questions than answers. Updike seems to imbue Rabbit with sexuality and sexism, claiming for his character a sort of uber-masculinity that can often be downright repulsive.

One wonders if in between Updike’s lovely, sharp and poetic prose and intriguing plot—and there is a lot of amazing writing here; he was a VERY talented writer—Updike is also himself extremely sexist and male-fixated. Is he giving permission to men to be these reverted cavemen of sexual urges and oblique, egocentric longing? Is it OK to flee your wife and family? To take up with a prostitute who you later humiliate? To make moves on a minister’s wife because you sense she may find you attractive? Is it “just being a guy” to want sex with a young woman who offers herself to you for no clear reason? Are you bonding with your son by inviting a black drug-dealer and a free-love girl into your house?

I guess, in the long run, I will read the other parts (there are three more Rabbit books) and form an opinion of what Updike is trying to say through Rabbit and whether Rabbit’s sexism is a character trait or a quality of Updike’s writing.
Author 1 book3 followers
July 31, 2017
The first two entries in the four-novel life of Rabbit Angstrom, the horny, hedonistic hero whose topsy-turvy life marks America's social metamorphosis from the button-down 50's to the unleashed 60's. "Rabbit Run," a tiny domestic melodrama written with Joycean panache, nicely blurs the battle lines between WASP and modern man. "Rabbit Redux," published 11 years on, furthers the practice but semi-reduces Rabbit to a symbol, a "good hearted imperialist racist" who plays point-counterpoint with a kooky concubine and a black militant, to facilitate an all-sides inventory of the times. Soapbox aside, there's great dialect, finely etched sex (of course,) and beefy descriptive muscle.
21 reviews
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November 1, 2019
Depressing. Not sure I want to read the next 2. Although I would like to find out how his sone Nelson (Nellie) just becoming a teenager makes out and he does Rabbit stay with Janice - the wife he goes back to. And whatever happened to his sister Mim - who was tarting t around in Hollywood.?
Profile Image for Jörg.
313 reviews29 followers
October 16, 2021
Let me start out by copying my introduction from the review to Rabbit at Rest: The Rabbit series is an exceptional literary effort. About every ten years, Updike published a new installment with Rabbit aging as much as the author and always taking place in the then present time, giving a snapshot of the USA every change of a decade from approx. 1960 to 1990. This omnibus features the first three novels.

Looking back at all novels together, it's not easy to judge them as separate books. They belong together and if you start at all with this series, go all the way and read all four books. Only this way you'll get the maximum out of them. I can understand the common opinion that the second installment Rabbit Redux is a bit weaker than the others with a more outlandish plot that doesn't really fit with Rabbit's true character and only provides background explaining later developments which take a central role in Rabbit is Rich and Rabbit at Rest. But due to this, go with the flow and read Redux as well.

With each consecutive book, I enjoyed the series more as for once Rabbit and Updike came closer to my own situation in life and I grew closer to Rabbit and his camarilla. I can't prove it but my gut feeling is that Updike's quality of characterizations grew as well with plot increasingly taking the back seat while maintaining consistency in the depiction of its characters throughout. Each new start ten years later was fascinating to casually learn what has happened in between. Notwithstanding all the changes, Rabbit kept his tendency to run. Either away, with the flow, aimlessly or any combination thereof. Life isn't always what you make it. It also just happens. And that's what the Rabbit books are about for me.
Profile Image for Jess.
74 reviews
July 12, 2020
It is difficult to review this trilogy without spoilers! I will say that it took me some time to get into Rabbit Run, but once I got going I thoroughly enjoyed all three novels.
It is the story of Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom's adult life. An adored basketballer in his teenage years, he finds himself in his early 20's, selling kitchen appliances, with a 2 year old son and Janice, his heavily pregnant alcoholic wife. He lacks the emotional maturity to deal with the fact this his promising life has eventuated into something he hates, and so he flees. His cowardice, huge ego and hypocrisy is thus revealed (recurring traits throughout all the trilogy) and results in tragedy.
In Rabbit Redux, life has moved on by 10 years, Rabbit seems to have repaired his relationship with Janice, and his son Nelson is in his early teens. Rabbit is working alongside his father at a printing press and his mother is very unwell. Janice has an affair and moves out. A young girl, Jill with whom Rabbit begins a sexual relationship, moves in and she becomes half-mother, half-sister to Nelson. Not long after that a radical black man who has strong opinions on race and politics called Skeeter, moves in too. Nelson is exposed to some behaviour that is truly disgraceful. Again tragedy strikes while Rabbit is doing what he does best (selfish, casual sex) but this time Nelson is old enough to be cognisant of the event and its implications. The anger and blame that Nelson holds towards his father sets the scene for Rabbit Rich.
Rabbit Rich is set a further 10 years into the future. Rabbit has inherited his father in law's car dealership and is living with his mother in law as well as Janice. He has certainly moved up in the world from working class to comfortable middle class thanks to his generous in laws, and he subsequently spends a considerable amount of time considering his wealth. Nelson has gotten his girlfriend pregnant and, reminiscent of Rabbit in the first novel, feels obliged to settle down by quitting university, moving home and working at the car dealership. However the troubled relationship that Rabbit and Nelson, who is stricken with rage and resentment, share is not conducive to a productive working environment. A primary focus of the third novel is Rabbit and Nelson's relationship and it fascinated me. Nelson is neither liked or respected by Rabbit, who sees him as weak, lazy, entitled and insecure. In many ways Nelson has become Rabbit and the traits that Rabbit (or the reader) cannot stand are exactly those that Rabbit manifests himself. For example Rabbit is frustrated by Nelson's assumption that he should be employed by the dealership in a position of importance immediately without starting at the bottom and earning his way in - which is exactly how Rabbit became wealthy (ie via his father in law). However as a reader I had sympathy for Nelson which I did not have for Rabbit, presumably because we have witnessed the catastrophic events that Nelson endured as a child, and we can see that he is only guilty of becoming a product of his environment. Rabbit is still fixated with sex and develops a sort of obsession with his friend's younger wife. He is also consumed with the possibility that he has a daughter living nearby by a woman he had an affair with in Rabbit Run which I think is rooted in dissatisfaction with Nelson.
Rabbit is rarely likeable. I had very little pity for him. He is a man consumed with himself and having his own needs met. He is careless of those who love and need him. He is chauvinistic and racist. He is a fallible human and I expect there are millions of Western men exactly like him. Updike brought Rabbit to life so believably. He captured an everyday American; his life, family, friends, dreams, insecurities and political and religious beliefs in the context of American society in the second half of the 20th Century. Allusions to the political atmosphere, historical events, social movements and music helped to perfectly capture this period of time and there are passages of stunning prose. The characterisation, themes and plot were developed beautifully across the three novels. It was a fraction slow to start with and dragged a little in the middle of Rabbit Redux so I have given 4 stars instead of 5.
Profile Image for Richard Jespers.
Author 1 book16 followers
November 2, 2014
This book, of the first three of Updike’s tetralogy, is said to be the most popular of the four. I wonder. Yes, Rabbit matures a bit now that he’s fifty-six. His wife Janice, who was such a little mouse in the first book, especially blossoms into a forty-three-year-old woman who knows her mind and isn’t afraid to tell Harry where to get off. Their son Nelson returns, after three years at Kent State, to live with them. Instead of remaining at school to get his degree, he insists on taking a sales position at the Toyota dealership where Rabbit has worked since his father-in-law gave him a job years ago. Rabbit, the basketball hero, has allowed himself to get fat and sluggish. His fantasies of women are tempered with the idea that they wouldn’t probably find him very attractive.

Updike develops several strands of the Angstrom saga. Rabbit continues, throughout the book, to return to the home where his former lover Ruth lives. Rabbit believes that he has a daughter there, that Ruth’s eldest is his. At the end of the book, he is told that such is not the case. We sense that she’s lying, but Updike does nothing to confirm it; we may only feel that way because Rabbit doesn’t believe her. He thinks the child’s photo looks like him and not Ruth’s husband. He may just want a daughter, after experiencing the death of baby Rebecca so many years prior in the first novel.

In a second strand, Nelson quarrels on and off with his father, who now really can’t stand to be around his opinionated son, who won’t finish college. When a woman named Melanie shows up and wants to stay with Nelson in his room at Janice’s mother’s house, where they all live, things begin to liven up. Then when a second woman, a pregnant Pru, Nelson’s lover from Kent State, shows up, Nelson hangs around and even marries Pru. Melanie leaves to have an affair with one of Rabbit’s colleagues.

Updike, in his usual exploration of contemporary culture (1979), takes three couples, including Harry and Janice, to a wild week in the Caribbean. They all swap partners one night. In a tender scene, Harry is paired with a woman who’s been smitten with his fat self for quite some time, a woman who has been diagnosed with lupus. Instead of being put off, he succumbs to the charms of the plump woman who allows him many liberties Janice won’t even entertain. The week is shortened, when Janice’s mother calls to say Nelson has disappeared.

In the final twenty pages, Nelson calls from Kent State to say he’s going to finish his degree, while living with Melanie who’d come to see him, although he promises to return to his wife Pru and the baby. Harry and Janice, now comfortably rich, buy their first home in an area that some perceive as Nob Hill. Harry now covets the small den as being his, where he might have a few books. But Janice, unwilling to populate the large living room with furniture, overtakes the den, to watch TV.

In this book, at the two-thirds mark, as in the first two novels, we think a third child will die as a pregnant Pru accidentally falls over a set of stairs. Oh, no, Updike, not again, we think, but it is a trick. In sort of a deus ex machina move (Updike must realize he just can’t kill off another young person to create the climax), Pru and the baby both turn out to be fine—even if such an accident would normally hurt the mother and kill the baby.

In another nine years, Updike would publish Rabbit at Rest, Harry Angstrom, Rabbit, in his sixties, now living in Florida. Luckily, I don’t have to wait that long. However, reading will have to wait!
Profile Image for Caroline Gordon.
153 reviews7 followers
September 20, 2011
I've just read the first Rabbit Run so far, I just want to record my thoughts for later comparison once I get through the others.[return][return]From the start I was somewhat put off by Updike's style. Every little moment seems to be dissected into a thousand peices, with each characters motives and actions a prism into their psyche. I became somewhat impatient and actually overwelmed as page upon page of these absoutely stunningly insightful paragraphs kept coming at me. I was struggling for breath! [return][return]As I adjusted to it I decided to just go with it and follow him into the depths and folds of this story, plumet to the depths of consciousness every second paragraph. Because the plot did actually move on. The closely set type of this edition probably doesn't help and I find myself often rereading paragraphs several times.[return][return]Now into the second book Rabbit Redux I'm totally hooked on Updike and I think he is truly a genius.[return][return]From the beginning of Rabbit Run I was struck by the presence of the mountain. It looms large over the city and seems to loom large in Rabbit's mind, not that he would be aware of that, which is actually the point. Rabbit just takes his life in little impulses, letting them guide and following them, the reason behind it and mass of his self that is unexplored and wild, like a looming wild mountain of his psyche. He runs from one side of the mountain to the other, pushed and pulled but never in command, never sitting in judgement of himself. Which makes the name Mount Judge just so poetic. At the end of the novel as he finally starts to reconcile himself his trip into the wilds of the mountain and emergence out again, a changed man, now truly reconciled with his own self.[return][return]So now I've almost finished the second book, Rabbit Redux. I'm still entranced by Updike's utter genius. I just love the reflections running through the books. Rabbit is the taker, what you have he'll take, Jill is the giver, what you want she gives. So of course they end up together. Their meeting in the club so like the meeting of Rabbit and his first girlfriend (forgot her name). Again one outing, one meeting and he's hooked up. Everything in the book just seems to bend to Rabbit, he just glides through life taking what he wants and people just keepin on giving. But he is just sliding through, not actually deciding or acting just floating on through. As is Jill. What can happen to a life like this, the empty space left by all that lack of will has to get filled with something, and whoa here he comes - Skeeter. So out of control he fills their life like a maelstrom. It's going to take something like this to shake Rabbit out of his slumberful life - I'm just waiting for him to wake and see what happens - don't let me down Updike![return][return]So now I finally have Harry Angstrom off my back, well I've finished this volume anyway. My early thoughts about the density of the text were gone by the third volume, not sure if I got used to it or the style changed somewhat. I'm putting this series up there with my all time favourite books. Harry doesn't get any more attractive as a character as the book goes on but you are still compelled to find out how his life pans out. Ever the passive rider in his life, things just unfold in front of Harry and he takes them as they appear. The final volume I may put on my read later list, but I'd be more interested to sample some more Updike just to see if he really is Harry Angstrom, can he really write any other character as real as this one?
February 23, 2019
I read the whole Rabbit series (4 books). Not the most likable character, but for some reason, I had to know where this character's life went. Uncomfortable, especially for today's world. These books span 30 decades and feels a lot like the Mad Men Era. Worth the investment in my time, but I still feel unsure how I feel about this series.
Profile Image for Salwa.
45 reviews2 followers
November 6, 2009
I just finished Rabbit, Run. What the critics say is true, Updike is a masterful writer and a misogynist (or at least his character Rabbit is). His prose is absolutely wonderful, exciting, and well paced. Where I sometimes bore at long descriptions his were spot-on and really added to the story, made you picture exactly where and when and who these people are. Also, the poet in me loved his interesting takes on the everyday (a basketball hoop as a woman's skirt or thwarted arousal as a tiny angel with lead weights on her). But, as in those two examples, there's also this crass anti-women slant that is unending and wearying throughout the entire novel; it's present in the descriptions and in the ridiculous way Rabbit does, in fact, run, instead of dealing with any of the shit storm he creates. Updike makes Rabbit very appealing, but I'm left with a bad taste in my mouth. I'm intrigued enough to read Rabbit Redux next, especially since the ending of Rabbit, Run did not wrap up the story at all. I'll let you know what I find out.

I read Rabbit Redux (10/09) after a nice long break from Rabbit Run. Times changed from the first book to the next, as they did for Updike writing them 10 years apart. Has Rabbit grown? A little, and he does start to expand his mind and his worldview a bit in this book, but he's still not a fully evolved and responsible person yet. Reading the Rabbit books is like watching a train wreck or a soap opera. You don't really want to be living in the world of the story, but you can't help getting sucked in. It gives you the creeps, but you can't look away. As I said in my review of James Baldwin's If Beale Street Could Talk, this book is very racially charged and much more political since it takes place in the 60s and one of the main characters is a black Vietnam vet. Of course, the other black characters are drug addicts, prostitutes, part-time pimps, and entertainers, so Updike has really gone for the lowest common denominator in terms of his stereotyping.
Of course, he maintains the high level of writing he is known for here and it is a very compelling story. In the end, after reading Baldwin, the Rabbit storyline is compelling and interesting, but in this day and age it's no longer relevant. It's not revealing the ills of suburban white middle class America to me. Not that fiction has to be relevant, but I feel like, if you're going to wade into this melodramatic and terrible world, you may want to get something out if it aside from excellent writing. Then again, maybe excellent writing is enough---it was enough to get me to read all 640 pages of these two books and, after another nice break, I'll probably read the next two as well.
Profile Image for Ashley.
72 reviews8 followers
March 26, 2012
I have since finished the second and am half-way through the third installment.

I'm currently chasing down two frameworks, internally-like, as I read.

The first is that Updike is experimenting with the darker side of 'truth-telling' and self-awareness. Particularly as his peers (Kerouac, Ginsberg, Kesey) were writing sweeping narratives of existentialist self-discovery and ruminations about the importance of self-awareness and consciousness, Updike creates a character that is honest and aware of his true desires... and hasn't either the will or sense to curb them as would a more integrated member of society. Rabbit is in-tune with constantly shifting tastes, his sexual urges, his fear of cages and commitment, his desire to be, still, the star and center of his own life. He follows his instincts giving consideration only to how they fit into his own cacophony of desires. He lets the reader in on his picky and tedious critiques of all (particularly women) that he meets - what satisfies his taste and what does not. The narrative is an experiment that seems to support the old adage - the truth is the excuse of scoundrels.

"How can you blame me?" - I can hear Harry saying, "I'm just being honest!"

Or, more poignantly, and in Rabbit's ACTUAL own words:

"If you have the guts to be yourself, other people'll pay your price.”

My SECOND theory - I'll get to later (I think I need to finish the series to validate it)... but it is that Updike is writing the series as a modern-day morality tale. I'm tracking down some etymologies beyond the most obvious... (Eccles, Mt.Judge, Brewer, Rabbit) and reading them as character's and places named as to suggest a type (as opposed to an individual).

Also, given that Updike was a well-studied Anglican (look at his ease of referencing and dialoging with the theories of quite specialized theologians in "In the Beauty of the Lillies", I'm looking into the numerous biblical names he's chosen for characters to see how and if these fit into a morality-tale structure.

Anyway, so far, very compelling. Updike is swinging to break some jaws. And I think he's doing just that.
Ruth, Rebecca, Janice (Joanna)
Profile Image for Laura.
393 reviews29 followers
August 18, 2009
Having completed Rabbit, Run I feel the need to write about my experience with this particular novel, obviously with my thoughts on Rabbit Redux to come in the near future.

I'm about 1/3 of the way through the list of Pulitzer novels (better to go slow than rush this), and I couldn't have timed the Rabbit novels better. They're pretty heavy, for my tastes. The style of Updike's writing is amazing to behold; but God, I hate these characters. I don't suppose many people like the weak Janice, and certainly not misogynist Rabbit. The problem of this novel is I can't make any excuses for this jerk who possesses the longest list of flaws I think I've encountered (but would be happy to wait for someone to prover me wrong, perhaps I have been this frustrated with a fictional character), and I enjoy a novel if I can find someone to relate to. I think Eccles' confusion is the yin to Rabbit's yang, and I enjoy that particular relationship. Otherwise? OI. Perhaps Rabbit shapes up with age, and let's hope so, for the sake of my Pulitzer list... because there's three more to go.

...all right! I finished Rabbit Redux and feel soooo much more excited about Updike. I must admit to having felt a nice chunk of shame at feeling so grumpy towards Rabbit Run... but the plot of Redux was so much more full of politics, compassion, and rebellion! Every character bared something brand new, and that for me made Redux so much more enjoyable than Run! I'm pretty sure things will only get better as I read Rabbit Is Rich and Rabbit at Rest!
Profile Image for Andrew.
46 reviews85 followers
June 3, 2008
I'm liking it so far, although the prose can be a little mind-bending. But imagery, creating a world, this is something that John Updike, I am learning, excels at.

Quite a good read. It was a long haul, but you end up going through three decades and getting a feel for each one of them, though I wasn't alive for any of them. At a parallel to these decades (the first three decades of the Cold War - a case could be made that the relationship between Rabbit and other characters in this book relates to the relationship between America and the other superpowers) Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom grows from an upstart philanderer with a God-complex into a cuckolded, fat, preposterous - but much wilier - old guy. The novels bespeak an America of privilege, ignorance and pride, but not an unlovable beast. The Descendents (a punk band) have a song called "'Merican" that sums up the portrayal of the U.S. in a quick juxtaposition of symbols of national pride and infamy, from Ben Franklin to Vietnam: "I'm proud and ashamed / Every Fourth of July / You've got to know the truth / Before you say that you've got pride."

The three novels were written separately, so there are tropes and motifs that run through each book, the overriding motifs of the trilogy being sex, drugs, and cars. What does it mean to be a father? Do the sins of the father really visit the children? Questions like these plague the novels and are only answered partially - though each book drives at a central point: more will be revealed, and America seems almost impossible to get rid of.
39 reviews
January 4, 2011
Rabbit, Run was on the list I've been trying to tackle, so when I saw this two-book volume at a used book shop I picked it up with only vague thoughts of reading the second novel in the series. I thought maybe I'd read it at some point but nope, I turned the page right over to Rabbit Redux the moment I finished. Had I had the second volume on hand (with books three and four in the series) I would have picked that one up immediately after finishing as well!

What makes these books fascinating is Updike's ability to make you actually care about and empathize with the total A-hole that is Rabbit. I found myself constantly reevaluating who the good guys and bad guys were, where to place blame for the things that happened, and who's side I was on. In addition to a great, complex story, the writing is so beautiful at times you feel like you're reading a poem instead of a novel. I have this tendency to book mark pages of books that have passages I like and found myself folding down the corner of the page so many times I had to stop! I am excited to track down the second volume and finish the series. Not only do I want to know what happens next, I look forward to immersing myself in the world created in the books once again.

(As a side note, a word of caution: If you read these books AND watch Mad Men at the same time, it's possible you will start to be convinced your significant other is cheating on you just because you will begin to think that is what everyone does. Remember, Don Draper and Harry Angstrom are NOT real people!)
Profile Image for Russell.
103 reviews
February 24, 2010
Book 1 of this series, Rabbit, Run, is the latest in my book club that is attempting to go through the Modern Library's 100 greatest books. It is the 3rd we have read, and while I think it will give us the most to talk about - I will not say that I am happy to have read it.

The character of Rabbit Angstrome is one of the worst people I have ever read about. I think my largest issue with him is that I believe the author wanted me to feel and connect with him. For much of the book, Rabbit is getting involved in the lives of others and ruining them. He seems to have no care for how his actions affect others. And do not get me started with how he treats his wife at the funeral!!

I can tell that Rabbit is the type of man that has been "coached" his entire life. A star basketball star - he is used to being praised for his actions. And I did find it interesting that when he was going through his mid-life crisis he turned to the coach to find the next steps. He then moves on to the local preacher - but does not really follow his advise and this causes his life to fall apart.

I cannot say I would tell anyone to read this book. I will say that I did have such a feeling of disgust that I cannot wait to talk to my book club.
Profile Image for Betsy Robinson.
Author 9 books994 followers
March 17, 2014
It is absolutely exhausting being a messy human being. And John Updike is the master of this messiness. There is something mesmerizing, even though I often got lost in his unpunctuated meandering descriptions of as everything that you or the protagonist encounter (complete with stream-of-conscious poetic almost relentless alliteration). But just when you think you can’t stand another narrative line, people erupt in their full-flawed humanity.

The reason that I stayed with these books (617 pages) is that there’s something deeply honest about the writing; ergo, I surrendered and didn’t worry about every sentence or clause’s meaning.

Protagonist Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom is king of our human cesspool of bigotry, narcissism, sex drive, and confused anger. And none of the other characters are immune. Everyone is flawed and real — in dialogue and behavior. This is because there is no author secretly showing off his God-like rightness or false compassion or intellectual cleverness. There is no showing off at all.

These books are a kind of elegant human soup. But my God, is it exhausting to read two books in a row in this two-volume collection. It almost broke me.
Profile Image for Juliet Wilson.
Author 15 books42 followers
July 18, 2010
Rabbit Angstrom is Updike's vision of everyman, an ordinary man, living an ordinary life with an ordinary family in an ordinary neighbourhood, making the mistakes we all make and not really learning from them. This book is made up of three novels which follow Rabbit's life, concentrating in turn on the years 1959, 1969 and 1979.

Rabbit Run, the first book in the trilogy, is very well written but I found it boring and too focussed on the purely domestic.

Rabbit Redux and Rabbit is Rich are both much more satisfying. In these novels, Updike mixes the very personal domestic scene very effectively with the politics of the day. This puts Rabbit's life in context and gives a historical context to the series.

Rabbit is Rich is excellent on the burgeoning mainstream environmental awareness of the late 1970s - I wonder why it has taken us until 2010 to start to get this back?
7 reviews1 follower
March 23, 2008
This is my first and only Updike to date. While I think it was really well written, the story was a bit depressing for my taste. A testament to the author's skill, I went back and forth between liking Rabbit and hating him. He is such a selfish character, and while he doesn't intend to hurt those around him, in his naivete he manages to do just that to just about every other character in the book.
This is just a personal take. I know Updike was trying to make a statement in having such an ambiguous main character. His style of writing is really cool, too. I found it to mirror the of events in the story (i.e. crazy parts of the story were written with less punctuation and frantic pace)
Profile Image for Stephan.
142 reviews11 followers
January 3, 2008
I enjoyed both of the two books in this Volume so much that I finished them on a 4 day trip to South Carolina. Updike just knows how to bring things into such clear and exact focus. He describes. My favorites of the 'Rabbit' series are "Rabbit Run" and "Rabbit is Rich". He just keeps developing the characters, even though they never change themselves. And they all seem so tragically resigned to a course of action so frighteningly familiar to anyone from the suburbs. I think he captures each decade the books seem to occupy merely by his character's trends and modes of thinking. And what a cover design.
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