Sunday, June 10, 2012

Rabbit, Run Rabbit, Run by John Updike

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There were times reading this novel when I was reminded of the musician who has great chops but doesn't know when to stop; he plays five notes when two tastefully executed would've sufficed. I guess it should be expected from this early novel in what was to become a long, illustrious and prodigious career. Rare is the talent that charges out of the gate fully mature, and Updike was no exception. I never did develop any sympathy for Harry - which is a major problem for a novel's readability - nor did I ever arrive at any genuine understanding as to why he walks out on his pregnant wife and young son in the first place. And perhaps that's Updike's main point: Harry's ambivalence leads to moral obtuseness. In the context of its publication at the end of the 50s ie. the United State's post-war economic boom and middle America reveling in an Ozzie and Harriet Protestant suburban fantasy, I can see how a character like Rabbit, the ambivalent rebel, might seem outrageous. Unquestionably, the tragic price paid for Harry's ambivalence is heart-wrenching. But nowadays, when thirty is the new twenty, youth are in no hurry to grow up and leave home, and ambivalence is the order of the day, Harry's 'rebellion' strikes me as rather quaint. I'll still read the next book in the series to see if both Updike the writer and Harry mature. 

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