On Rabbit, Run
I read John Updike’s Rabbit, Run sometimes ago. John Updike was an American writer. He died about five years ago and many critics say he deserved the Nobel Prize. Often dubbed as the king of small-town adultery, his bibliography is impressive with novels, collections of stories, poetry, even essays. He was prolific. David Foster Wallace once said that he did not have a single unpublished thought.
I was drawn to him by the publicity occasioned by his death. He had died in his seventies from lung cancer. I attempted to read his novel, The Beauties of the Lilies, which began at a significant moment in its protagonist’s life, a priest who just lost his faith. I could, however, not finish reading the book because of its dense sentences that meandered away from my grasp, often without a period. Reading Updike is not an easy task. But this was four years ago.
So my housemate brought home some books and there were two old paperback copies of Rabbit, Run amongst them. I decided to pick one to read. In the last four years, I have read a book of essays by John Updike and a small novella both electronically with more ease. I heard that Updike’s first book was a book of poems and I was working on my first book, a collection of poems. His sentences which disturbed me in the past were now items of delight.
Harry Angstrom, the protagonist, is introduced early on a basketball court, returning home from work, watching young boys playing. He was a good High school basketball player but is now a struggling salesman. He would rather play ball with kids than go home to his pregnant wife who sits around the house and smokes in excess.
Getting home, his wife is home as usual. The house is a hideous mess; his son was with his in-laws and his car with his mother. His wife sends him to go buy cigarettes and bring both his son and his car home. He picks the car alright but instead of picking up his son and cigarettes for his wife, he runs. Harry whose moniker is Rabbit runs. He drives away, puts as much distance as he can between himself and his nagging wife, his family, his small hometown with niggling trivia. After the burst of impulsion subsided, he returns to his hometown but not to his home. He takes transient residence with a prostitute whom he met in the company of his High school basketball coach.
The book is rife with the anxieties, Rabbit’s anxieties. He wanted to run out of his uninspiring life, seek something different, perhaps wild but ultimately satisfying. I could identify with the protagonist’s conflict because it was entirely a psychological treatise of his mind state. How unpredictable he could be; how impulsive he would act and the deleterious effects his (in) actions would have on his family life.