Rabbit, Run by John Updike
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Was it John Updike's intention all along to make Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom the most repugnant character in literary history, or was that an accident? Being the master writer that Updike was, I'm sure it was no accident, but good Lord, I have never seen a more unlikeable protagonist in all my years of reading fiction. I mean, even Raskolnicov in Dostoevsky's, Crime and Punishment, is a more likeable protagonist, and he killed a poor, defenseless old woman with an ax.
Let me repeat that. A man who killed an old woman with an axe is more likeable than Rabbit Angstrom. I've never detested a character more than I have with this one, and I'm just so glad to finally be done with the book so I don't have to deal with him any longer. I don't think I could stomach another page of hearing him justify his rottenness.
And that's mainly because Rabbit never grows up. At 26, Rabbit thinks only of himself and doesn't understand the misery he puts everybody else through. And in the few moments where he actually does think, "Well, maybe I better shape up and do the right thing," he finds some little, nagging issue that, like the title says, makes him run away. Chalk it up to youth (Though, 26 is rather old to be acting like such a child), chalk it up to his upbringing, which seemed fine enough to me, or chalk it up to living in crummy Pennsylvania, I don't know. I can't see any reason why Rabbit is being such a selfish jerk or why we, as an audience, should feel anything for him but hatred.
I genuinely have no idea.
So why the four stars, then? Well, because Updike is a master storyteller. The fact that I hate Rabbit so severely just shows that Updike did a brilliant job of getting me invested in this world and these characters. Could he have added at least one redeeming quality to get me to understand why Rabbit is the way he is? Sure, I definitely think so. But the fact that I want to read the next book in the series just to see if Rabbit has matured any means Updike did a damn good job of hooking me in. It's little wonder that he received such praise while he was still alive. The man could write!
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