Reading some tributes to John Updike and some reviews. Not so sure that I want to read the Rabbit novels after this comment from Robert Taubman in the LRB:
I wouldn’t hold sentimentality against a writer, but he must be careful about the company it keeps. Harry’s moments of illumination are edgily close to Updike’s more malicious ones, like the revelation of the father’s buttocks. A moment after thinking of babies’ souls, Rabbit thinks that what he really wants is ‘to have Cindy arrange herself in the pose of one of those Penthouse sluts on a leopard skin and get down in front of her on all fours and just eat and eat and eat’. This isn’t unnatural of Rabbit, but Updike is too fond of the literary game of juxtapositions, and it reduces his characters to abject helplessness. The juxtapositions may be droll, cheeky, disagreeable, or just nullifying: but what they don’t do is give any depth to the novel.
Harry ‘Rabbit” Angstrom, the everyman of American fiction. What I find interesting about him is that, apart from being Updike’s most successful character, it seems to be the one that he most identified with. Updike used the novels, published at the end of the each decade, as “a running report on the state of my hero and his nation”. How the character developed is also worth noting. Previously, he wrote a short story entitled Ace in the Hole, and also a poem, Ex-Basketball Player, with similar themes to Rabbit, Run.
It’s funny to consider that, when it was published in 1960, Rabbit, Run was considered a “biting critique” of 1959 America.
Rabbit might not be very deep but he’s ‘real’.