Book cover
Rabbit Run
John Updike

I’m not sure why, but I remember this book having some kind of resurgence in my childhood. Perhaps it was just in my household. But I remember seeing it being read by both my parents and my uncle, and I remember lots of talk among them about it. I was way too young to read it myself, but more recently a friend recommended it. Updike is a nuanced and linguistically competent writer, and the plot is fast and engaging. As a character study it is engrossing.

It’s hard in this modern era to look past the sometimes grating white-centerism of the book. Maybe that was intentionally thematic, but I can’t help but think it runs deeper. In this book there are Americans, men and women, and then there are Negroes and Chinamen and so on. The obvious implication is that non-white Americans aren’t real Americans, or at least require some kind of modifier. This doesn’t have much to do with the book itself, but as I said it is grating to me now. And serves as a reminder that if I had read this book 15 years ago, I doubt I would have noticed at all.

I also came away thinking the book is so deeply rooted in 1960s America that it was hard to relate to. In some way’s it’s a time capsule into an America that hadn’t yet been so deeply influenced by books like this. That makes it academically interesting but also subtracts from the ethos of the reading experience. I came away interested, intrigued, maybe even impressed. But not particularly moved. Is it a criticism that is lacks the timelessness of some of the “great” novels of the past? Probably not. At any rate I’m glad I read it and I think I probably will read the whole series.

Postscript: Perhaps I’m being overly negative here, but I’ll pile on. What’s up with the cover on the eBook edition (image above)? The publisher really phoned this one in which is a shame for a book of this calibre. It looks like someone squinted at the much more artful first edition cover below, sighed, said “That looks hard…” and fired up MS Paint and a clipart library. It really rubs me the wrong way when publishers treat their eBook releases like this.

The first print edition cover.

The first print edition cover.