November 29th, 2005

Review: Rabbit, Run

I finally finished John Updike's Rabbit, Run. I'd picked up a copy at well_lahdidah's aunt's house a while back, and I finally finished it last night. It's a very famous book that spawned several sequels, so I thought I should find out what all the fuss is about. Here's the line that convinced me to keep reading:

The space of six feet or so that each double house rises above its neighbor contains two wan windows, wide-spaced like the eyes of an animal, and is covered with composition shingling varying in color from bruise to dung.

That one sentence paints a dismal picture, doesn't it? Crowded, dead, dominating-and-dominated, sick, stupid, beat-up, and dirty. "Bruise to dung" is a little heavy-handed, sure, but I had to know to what end this bleak prose was heading.

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One part that struck me as particularly interesting is when Harry visits the hospital when Janice is having her baby. In the waiting room, he thinks he recognizes an older woman. She recognizes him and introduces herself: she is Tothero's wife. Tothero, Harry's old basketball coach, has had a stroke and is in the hospital. Harry visits, but the man's tongue is flopping about and cannot comunicate even that he realizes that Harry is there. Later, after the tragedy, Tothero visits Harry and says he warned him. "Don't you remember? My begging you to go back?" When, in fact, Tothero called Janice "a little mutt" and took Harry out on a double-date with Margaret and Ruth, who turn out to be a couple of prostitutes.

If he gave Harry any advice at all, it was "Do what the heart commands. The heart is our only guide." Does he mean "do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law"? Or, if he means it otherwise, interspersed with calling women apes and Janice a mutt, how can he be taken seriously?

Another interesting scene is when the Jack Eccles meets with the Angstrom's Luthern minister, the imposing German Fritz Kruppenbach.