Rabbit, Run by John Updike

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I’ve decided to start reviewing books here on my blog. For a writer, reading should never be about simply enjoying a good story. Every book is an instructor and every chapter a lesson. That’s why I rarely read newly released books. Instead, I stick to the classics, which are classics for a reason. If you want to be the best, you’ve got to learn from the best and when guys like Kurt Vonnegut, John Updike, and John Kennedy Tool are your instructors, you’re in the best classroom on the planet.

 My most recent literary endeavor has been traveling through John Updike’s Rabbit series. I’ve read Rabbit, Run previously but it’s the kind of novel one could read a hundred times and learn something new each time. Updike is disgustingly good with words. I mean, I hate the bastard—simply because he’s that damn good. I find myself constantly pausing after some scintillating description and saying out loud, “Damn you, Updike. I wish I would have written that.”

 Really his skill lies in the details. Rabbit, Run is a literary novel and no one does mundane better than my fellow Pennsylvanian. The guy could make someone taking a dump sound like poetry (actually…I’m pretty sure he does). Check out this description of a bathroom:

 The paint is worn off the toilet seat and the wash-basin is stained by the hot-water faucet’s rusty ears; the walls are oily and the towel-rack empty. There is something terrible in the height of the tiny ceiling: a square yard of dainty metal pattern covered with cobwebs in which a few white husks of insects are suspended.

 That’s how much effort the guy puts into describing the bathroom for a scene that lasts all of two seconds. Damn him…

 The reason this novel spawned three sequels is the brilliance of its protagonist, Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom. Rabbit is a true enigma of literature. In reality, he is truly a detestable specimen. He opens the novel by abandoning his pregnant wife and shacking up with a prostitute. His irresponsible behavior leads to the death of his infant daughter. But in spite of all this, he’s still a likable character. How is that possible?!

 One of my favorite moments in all of literature is when Rabbit, out of absolutely nowhere, smacks the ass of Reverend Eccles’s wife when he travels to the good reverend’s house for a round of golf. It’s such a surprising and absurd moment, I laughed out loud even the second time around when I knew it was coming.

 I learned more from reading this one novel than I did during four years of creative writing classes in college. Damn you, Updike. Damn you and your superior writing skills!

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~ by themoderntranscendentalist on April 18, 2012.

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