In Defense of Rabbit

Maybe I'm wrong or exaggerating or misremembering, but I recall Updike having a bad reputation around the halls of the Dey House. Not from the older crowd. Frank admired him more than once. Ethan, too, methinks. But I remember, specifically, complaints about Updike's ubiquitous and forgettable appearances in the New Yorker. Those I won't defend. Really, I'm not interested in defending anything but the Rabbit tetralogy, which I recently finished.

I say this despite many, many annoyances: some the protagonists's fault and some the author's fault and some indistinguishable. I'm thinking of the casual misogyny, the tiresome wife-swapping, the indulgent exposition, etc. Furthermore, none of Rabbit's worlds--in his twenties, thirties, forties, or fifties--are mine. Still, the guy can write. Sentence by sentence, scene by scene, he's both in control and surprising. His use of the third person present tense is a worthwhile study. The four novels blend together a bit, though not in a bad way. The second, Rabbit Redux, strikes me as a singularly brilliant novel. I'd recommend it to anyone. It manages to be introspective without being condescending or boring, socially conscious without being trite or placating. Buy it for a penny on Amazon marketplace.

I'm curious what others think of the series, if not necessarily Updike.


Grendel said...

That's a pretty strong rec, K. Maybe Rabbit should go on my list. I must admit to having read only a handful of his stories and The Witches of Eastwick -- all of which I liked, but none of which made me very hungry for more.

Pete said...
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Pete said...

I think I've come around on Updike, at least his older stories. I might have been the one bloviating against shit stories in the NYer. Sorry about that. Thanks for the reminder to read these.

One of the advantages of reflexively distrusting stuff like Updike when I was younger is that, when I do finally give it a try, I'm sometimes allowed of a totality of aesthetic pleasure that I'm finding to be increasingly rare. (God, that pleasure was so cheap at 15. I got it out of Metallica albums and cheeseburgers. I thought the universe was full of things that glowed.)