In 2019, myself and a friend sat down to form a pseudo bookclub. Our goal: to read the classics we are yet to get round to. We started with John Updike’s debut novel Rabbit, Run.
The text follows the life of Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, a former high-school basketball star who abandons his family before the imminent birth of his second child; chasing a feeling of “it” that he deems missing, he instead ends up in a relationship with a local prostitute. In the opening pages of the text Rabbit realises that “[local children] have not forgotten him: worse, they never heard of him”. It is this lost sense of purpose that Updike uses as the driving theme throughout the novel.
I cant exaggerate how much I enjoyed this book. If you’ve ever read Catcher In The Rye or On The Road and felt frustrated about how the respective protagonists’ abandonment of responsibility goes unpunished, then Rabbit, Run is the book for you. Updike explicitly explores the disaster left behind when someone chooses to run away. Rabbits futile attempt to fill the vague sense of something missing leads to: death; loneliness; a loss of religion; and sexual impotence. In many ways the book reads as a direct confrontation of the hypocrisy inherent in the burgeoning hippie counter-culture of 1960s America.
The pleasure of Rabbit, Run stems from the paradox at its heart. Harry is both “running” to find something, anything, that might make him feel complete whilst simultaneously running away from a truth thats scares him – that his life peaked in high school.