Sunday, February 17, 2008
Review: Rabbit, Run
Rabbit, Run Book CoverBy John Updike. ISBN 0449911659. Updike's style of writing, with its focus on mundane minutia, has always frustrated me and this novel was no different. But in a book populated by unhappy people and places, the protagonist's quintessentially American pursuit of personal happiness no matter the consequences is undeniably powerful. The bleak nature of Rabbit's world provides the only justification for his increasingly indefensible actions. His gift is the ability to reawaken in others a part of themselves they'd long since lost sight of. Those who attach themselves to Rabbit out of obligation, desperation or impulse find a more optimistic part of themselves reawakened. Each new supporting character is a breath of fresh air; while Updike's use of the present tense and unyielding continuity of place and time creates moments of poetry—when Rabbit first hits the golf ball with the singularity that sends it sailing through the sky of his grandfather's color, for instance, or when his realization that the word "her" had become "a forked word"—but the style also feels uncomfortably claustrophobic. This feeling of uncomfortable intimacy continues even when Updike breaks from Rabbit's perspective during the novel's devastating final arc. As his feeling of liberation collapses like a house of cards, nothing about Rabbit's journey has overcome the consequences of his irresponsible but understandable initial decision to flee.