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Thoughts After Reading “Rabbit, Run” by John Updike

6 August 2010

I finished reading John Updike’s novel Rabbit, Run this week, and then I learned that it is actually the first book in a quartet about the character Harry, or more affectionately, “Rabbit.”

I liked the book. I read the whole thing, and I never felt like I didn’t want to find out what would happen next. But it didn’t continually tug my interest further and further the way my favourite books can. I can’t help comparing the book to J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, which I was meant to read one year in high school but didn’t. Well, I read the first few chapters and lost interest.

I don’t know what it is about Rabbit that reminds me of Holden Caulfield, but for what little I do remember about Holden, which is probably highly influenced by what the media reminds us about him in references to his character in modern life and literature, both Rabbit and Holden are unsatisfied with their lives and looking for something to shake things up. That’s also where both these books fail–neither character actually manages to find some excitement in their lives. They both go searching for something, don’t find it, and go back to the lives they had at the beginning of their stories.

I’m curious to read the other three of Updike’s Rabbit novels, but doubtful that they’ll surpass the blandness of the first. I realise that as a writer, you write the story you want to tell, and a lot of the literary talk about this quartet says that Updike used the four novels to paint a portrait of American life in each of the decades in which he wrote them, but from my point of view, isolated from the context in which the stories were written, Rabbit should have kept on driving south. That’s where the story would have been.

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