I vaguely remember reading about John Updike’s Rabbit, Run in a book club magazine in the early eighties (probably in the context of a newly translated sequel). Picked the book up in an Amazon sale and kept it on a shelf for a long while before embarking on a voyage of serious literature.
Or so I thought.
Rabbit, Run is a thoroughly period-tied piece of a man making a series of epically bad choices.
Not choices that mean the end of the world, but choices that never fail to evoke questions.
The protagonist, Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom is a high school basketball star who finds it very hard to settle down to slow domesticity. He’s also a self-serving narcissist who quickly comes off quite unlikable and fails to shine as the plot moves on.
I once did something right. I played first-rate basketball. I really did. And after you’re first-rate at something, no matter what, it kind of takes the kick out of being second-rate.
The Run starts off as a vehicular escape from his hometown, and I expected little more than an average road trip ending in guilt. But that’s not what happens, not at all. The expectations are shattered as soon as he returns, after getting lost. And things spin out of control after that. In actions and words. But especially actions provoked in others, Rabbit ends up shaking up the lives of relatives, friends and strangers.
The book is told in present tense, which initially grates a little, but soon flows smoothly off the pages. And while the plot is quintessentially a small-town drama, the prose is downright beautiful. Updike takes the time to fill in details, but does not drown the reader in minutiae. The dialogues ramble on, repetitively, but sounds genuine all the way.
I have a hard time picturing James Caan in the title role. Then again, I have a hard time picturing him as anybody else but Sonny Corleone.
This was a good book. I will see where the Rabbit has run in the sequels, too.