Rabbit is Rich by John Updike

The best works of literature provide an education on each page. With that in mind, Updike’s Rabbit series is an entire six-year college program, drunken all-night orgies included.

My third course in my Rabbit major was, narratively, my least favorite. Harry is enjoying the good life heading into the greatest decade known to man (the 80s). He’s working at Janice’s father’s car lot, living in his mother-in-law’s house, and trying to hunt down his illegitimate daughter he fathered in the first book. The problem is that literally NOTHING happens to Rabbit throughout the entire novel. He undergoes no arc, experiences no change, and learns no lessons. Even the storyline involving his bastard baby goes nowhere.

Really the main character in this novel is Rabbit’s son, Nelson (yes, the little brat from the previous two novels), which is unfortunate because he’s such an annoying twerp. He possesses none of the charm of his father and at no point does he come off as likable or even tolerable. Despite his great hatred for his father, Nelson still manages to repeat all his mistakes (knocking up his girlfriend out-of-wedlock, being forced into marriage, and eventually abandoning his new bride), but I could have cared less what happened to him.

Maybe that’s what Updike was going for here. Maybe he was trying to say that middle age brings no new changes and teaches no new lessons and all you can do is watch your children make the same mistakes you did…or maybe I’m just reaching.

Stylistically, the writing in the third chapter of the Rabbit opus is just as brilliant as the previous two outings. I did, however, catch myself being less impressed with the writing; not because it wasn’t as exquisite but because, after two novels, that’s what I’m used to. I should really read a chapter of the Twilight saga before reading Updike’s last Rabbit novel to get the full effect of how good the writing is compared to a steaming pile of word feces (ZING! to Stephanie Meyer!).

This novel also raised the bar for Updike’s perversion. This time around we get pornographic photographs, wife swapping, anal sex, and sexual urination. I commend Updike for his continued dedication to promoting the perversive arts in literature. Well done, sir!

I’ve traveled with Updike through the mid-point of Rabbit’s life and now the only thing left to do is see RABBIT AT REST. See you at the end of Rabbit’s literary life!


~ by themoderntranscendentalist on June 25, 2012.

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