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Rabbit Angstrom #2

Rabbit Redux

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In this sequel to Rabbit, Run, John Updike resumes the spiritual quest of his anxious Everyman, Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom. Ten years have passed; the impulsive former athlete has become a paunchy thirty-six-year-old conservative, and Eisenhower’s becalmed America has become 1969’s lurid turmoil of technology, fantasy, drugs, and violence. Rabbit is abandoned by his family, his home invaded by a runaway and a radical, his past reduced to a ruined inner landscape; still he clings to semblances of decency and responsibility, and yearns to belong and to believe.

440 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1971

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About the author

John Updike

786 books2,127 followers
John Hoyer Updike was an American writer. Updike's most famous work is his Rabbit series (Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; Rabbit Is Rich; Rabbit At Rest; and Rabbit Remembered). Rabbit is Rich and Rabbit at Rest both won Pulitzer Prizes for Updike. Describing his subject as "the American small town, Protestant middle class," Updike is well known for his careful craftsmanship and prolific writing, having published 22 novels and more than a dozen short story collections as well as poetry, literary criticism and children's books. Hundreds of his stories, reviews, and poems have appeared in The New Yorker since the 1950s. His works often explore sex, faith, and death, and their inter-relationships.

He died of lung cancer at age 76.

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Profile Image for Matt.
918 reviews28.2k followers
December 1, 2022
“‘That may be your mistake, Harry. You’ve taken Janice for granted ever since – the time.’ The time he left her. The time the baby died. The time she took him back. ‘Ten years ago,’ his father needlessly adds. Harry is beginning, here in this cold bar with cactuses in plastic pots on the shelves beneath the mirrors and the little Schlitz spinner doing its polychrome parabola over and over, to feel the world turn. A hopeful coldness inside him grows, grips his wrists inside his cuffs. The news isn’t all in, a new combination might break it open, this stale peace… ‘Harry, the malice of people surpasses human understanding in my book, and the poor soul has no defenses against it, there she lies and has to listen. Ten years ago, wouldn’t she have laid them out? Wouldn’t her tongue have cut them down? They’ve told [your mother] that Janice is running around. With one certain man, Harry. Nobody claims she’s playing the field…’”
- John Updike, Rabbit Redux

When last we met Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, faded high school basketball star turned aimless young adult, he was doing what he did best: run from his problems. In Rabbit, Run, set during the twilight of the Eisenhower administration, author John Updike closed with a bit of a cliffhanger, leaving us uncertain whether Rabbit would ever stop running, whether he would return to his wife and child and home and responsibilities, and whether she would take him back if he did.

In Updike’s sequel, Rabbit Redux, those questions are answered casually, in the first few pages. Instead of picking up where the first book left off, Updike instead skips ahead a decade, leaping over John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson to plop us right into the upheavals of the late 1960s. Up in space, Neil Armstrong is setting foot on the Moon, while down on earth, Rabbit is a Linotype operator, a thirty-six year-old man in a dying profession that he’s not really good at, growing fat and irrelevant as the universe changes drastically around him. In the larger world, America is fighting a controversial war in Vietnam, there are riots in the streets, and the underpinnings of his country are being challenged. At home, Rabbit’s mother is suffering from a progressive, dementia-like illness, his father is nagging him constantly to visit, and his son doesn’t like sports.

Also, Janice – Rabbit’s wife – has just left him for a car salesman.

With Janice suddenly absent, Rabbit gradually gathers around him an ad hoc family of sorts, comprised of Nelson, his son; Jill, a young white runaway from a rich family; and Skeeter, a black Vietnam vet who introduces Rabbit to drugs and a wider perspective.

To say more would be to give away too much, and would also serve little purpose. Like its predecessor, Rabbit Redux is not overly concerned with plot points. For much of its 350 pages, it just sort of drifts along, a series of conversations between Rabbit and various people. These talks are interspersed with a hefty helping of Updike’s famed (or infamous) sex scenes.

Instead of summarizing, it’s perhaps more worthwhile to mention a few observations.

The first has to do with Updike’s treatment of race. Mostly kept to the background in Rabbit, Run – which made sense for the time period and the character – race is at the forefront of Rabbit Redux.

At first, Updike handles the issue relatively well, keenly highlighting Rabbit’s racial panic as something outdated and buffoonish. The farther along we get in the book, however, the more problematic things become. After finishing Rabbit Redux, I read about an interview Updike once gave, in which he said that he did not write historical fiction because he had never “used a spittoon.” The point he was making, of course, is that he was most comfortable writing what he knew. The limits of Updike’s personal knowledge are on display here.

The issue arises from the character of Skeeter, who is not really a character at all. He is a mouthpiece, mostly dedicated to delivering long harangues to Rabbit. While what he says is not necessarily offensive, this particular trope – leading an ignorant white man to enlightenment – is outdated, to say the least. Moreover, Skeeter’s message is impossibly overwhelmed by his utter outrageousness, including a sequence in such glorious bad taste that I had to recheck to make sure I had read it correctly. Indeed, Skeeter is such a preposterous addition to Rabbit Redux that he might have worked, if only Updike had made a fractional attempt to give him human dimensions.

The second point worth mentioning is the sex. During his lifetime, Updike “won” many awards for delivering bad sex in fiction, and this aspect of his writing has almost subsumed his reputation. Rabbit Redux is chock full of bawdy scenes and minutely detailed bedtime bits.

I will be honest. In the past, I have gently mocked the graphic couplings narrated by authors such as Ken Follett. Now, I’m at the point where I’m a bit exhausted by the snark – my own included – mainly because there are so few examples of “good sex” in fiction. That is, any author who attempts a sex scene, whether it’s D.H. Lawrence or Updike, is going to get roasted by somebody, since there is no remotely objective framework for judging these things. The upshot is that sex – one of the fundamental aspects of humanity – is often left out of fiction altogether.

This is all a long way of saying that I respect Updike for his effort. At least he does not pretend that once the bedroom door closes, there is a bright light, angels singing, and a harmonious union too perfect for words. Simply labeling something a “bad sex scene” may say as much about the reader’s own discomfort as about what has been written.

That doesn’t mean that Updike is good at writing women, though. Here, I thought that Janice – in the rare times he focuses on her – is the most sympathetic character in Rabbit Redux. Of all the inexplicable actions taken in this book, hers are the most based in reason. Updike’s treatment of the other female characters, however, is marked by delusional male fantasies. I’m thinking especially of young Jill, who inexplicably decides to worship at the altar of the out-of-shape, early middle-aged Rabbit Angstrom.

The final point to be made is that Rabbit Redux, for all its literary qualities – and it is extremely well written, with marvelous prose and beautiful details – is nothing more than a reflection of Rabbit Run. The two are almost the same, with a few inversions. In terms of action, pacing, and structure, the sequel hits the exact same beats as the first entry. There is a marital conflict that ruptures the nuclear family, followed by the creation of a new, informal family, and then a late third act plot twist that has become predictably unpredictable. The additions that Updike made – his musing on race in America during the time of Nixon; his views on Vietnam and the counterculture; a lot more sexual activity – might make this a more ambitious novel, but not a better one.

Rabbit Redux is the second of four novels concerning its eponymous everyman. At the time the books were released, they were hailed as classics. Based on what I’ve read so far, I have some doubts that they will retain their prevalence or status into the future, though they may survive as markers of a specific type of person at a specific time in history.

Nevertheless, even though Rabbit Redux was the opposite of seamless, it kept me turning the pages, from first to last, without any thought of quitting. It may be a small sign of Updike’s true genius that he got me to care about an unexceptional, unattractive, narrow-minded schlub like Rabbit Angstrom, to the point where I cannot imagine not seeing his story through to the end
Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,423 reviews3,376 followers
October 25, 2022
These days I wouldn’t bother to read Rabbit Redux at all but I remember then I even liked it in a way.
The novel is too artificial and I believe John Updike simply wanted to catch some zeitgeist in just to be in the running…
Stavros takes it up quickly. ‘She on anything?’
‘This nympho of yours.’
‘On something?’
‘You know. Pills. Acid. She can’t be on horse or you wouldn’t have any furniture left.’
‘Jill? No, she’s kicked that stuff.’
‘Don’t you believe it. They never do. These flower babies dope is their milk.’
‘She’s fanatic against. She’s been there and back. Not that this is any of your business.’ Rabbit doesn’t like the way the game has started to slide; there is a hole he is trying to plug and can’t

All those make-believe boudoir hippies were nothing but movie extras – they had nothing to do with the actual hippie movement.
And anyway for such types as Rabbit there is no real convalescence – just a remission at best.
Profile Image for Robin.
484 reviews2,618 followers
October 7, 2022
DISCLAIMER: Rabbit, Run made me a John Updike fan-girl.

If Rabbit, Run was Updike's anti-1950's-American-suburbia book, then Rabbit Redux is definitely his rage against the 60's. Set in 1969 around the time of the moon landing, we find Rabbit, a little over a decade older, and he's not running. You could say that karma has caught up to him. Rumour has it that Janice (who has sobered up and is working at one of her father's car dealerships) is giving Rabbit a little taste of his own medicine, and has a lover on the sly. Though, not too sly, since everyone seems to know about it, including Rabbit's sickly mother who never leaves the house.

There are some pretty kick-ass scenes leading up to a big confrontation between Rabbit and Janice that confirmed to me how ingenious John Updike is. Then, Rabbit's life disintegrates into nothing less than a psychedelic shitstorm. The guy creates his own kooky commune when he takes home a teenage runaway and an unstable, kinda shifty black man who escaped probation from a recent drug charge. Don't ask me why he does this. The whole entire book, Rabbit is SO PASSIVE. Shit just happens to him, he allows it, with a truly laissez faire attitude, and of course, disastrous consequences.

What takes place during the time of supposed love and peace and grooviness is anything but. Updike shows the ugliest possible view of the 1960's: rotten and shallow relationships, selfish, unlikable people, racism, violence, almost constant drug use, and tons of unappealing sex. Or, should I say, nasty sex. It was so icky to be a fly on the wall for pretty much each and every copulation (failed or otherwise) that takes place in this book. It's so dark, and each participant is really so alone, it's beyond disturbing.

And while there was still much prose to swoon over...........

We contains chords someone else must strike.

The woman is old and wrinkled and smokes a yellow cigarette that requires much sucking in and holding down and closing of the eyes and sighing.

The universe is unsleeping, neither ants nor stars sleep, to die will be to be forever wide awake.

...........this book spiralled down to a level where even this fan-girl was appalled, I was ready for the book to END already. I couldn't stand a single soul. I was sick of the political ranting. I was sick of the nymphomaniacal activity. I didn't care who was cheating on who. It was so down in the gutter.

I was also completely bewildered at and frankly sick to death with the constant use of the word 'cunt' throughout the book. I should have started a count, because it must be at least a hundred or more times. Does it have some meaning, like the repetition of the phrase "So it goes" in Slaughterhouse-Five? I doubt it. It feels like another type of violence that is hard to take, a misogyny that gets real old, real quick. It highlights the utter disdain the male characters have towards women - and the moral reprehensibility of pretty much all the women in this book. They are all 'slutty', or are prostitutes, including Mim, Rabbit's own sister.

I was warned that this is the nadir of the Rabbit series and I concur with that assessment. Despite my misgivings with this instalment, I fully intend to read the rest. Because, John Updike.
Profile Image for Mark  Porton.
384 reviews325 followers
October 20, 2022
I gave the first in John Updike’s Rabbit series (Rabbit, Run) – 5-stars. Too easy.

The second in the series Rabbit Redux - I found to be a trickier affair.

Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom returns 10 years after the first novel, where he spent considerable time going walkabout, and now we see him back with his wife Janice. They have a teenage son, Nelson. He works for a printing company, and he doesn’t really like his job – but he works with his dad, and they do go for a drink at a local watering hole once a week. This seems to be one of his only outlets. His marriage isn’t happy – the couple are still recovering from the death of their baby daughter Rebecca, and other events that occurred in Rabbit, Run. Janice drinks a lot, they argue, it’s all pretty miserable.

Janice leaves Rabbit for a guy she works with leaving Rabbit to his own devices with Nelson at home. He meets a young girl called Jill, and through her a black drug dealer called Skeeter. They end up living together.

What you haven't done by thirty you're not likely to do. What you have done you'll do lots more.

One thing is certain – Rabbit’s downward spiral we witnessed in the first book of this series continues. There’s not a lot of joy in this book but the writing is powerful, there are some very strong themes, and the sex is explicit.

We were all brought up to want things and maybe the world isn’t big enough for all that wanting.

The strongest themes, depicting 1970s America, in this piece, for me were:
• The Vietnam War – Rabbit is ‘pro’, very ‘pro’ – and will argue with anyone.
• The Moon Landing – this even really did consume us all at the time.
• Racism – anti-black sentiment is thick; the racism is overt.
• Nixon – and all that
• Sex and Drugs – seems to be everywhere

There is only four chapters in this book – I found those involving the comings and goings of Rabbit and his relationship and issues with Janice fascinating. Updike really does dig deep into the dramas between the pair. I would describe their marriage as vicious.

But the chapter regarding Skeeter, which covered the time when Rabbit, Nelson, Jill (the young girl) and Skeeter all lived together was really hard work. I really was not looking forward to picking the book up during that ordeal, but it went on and on and on. The living arrangement between Rabbit, Jill and Skeeter was twisted – and a bit too much. It wasn’t so much that I was confronted by it – I just found it all a bit unlikely, over the top and repulsive. I just could not imagine a father letting that happen. Anyway – maybe it is me.

But there is no doubt Updike deserves the accolades attributed to him as one of America’s greatest modern writers. There were so many passages I needed to re-read and digest the prose, some (to be honest) I couldn’t figure out.

Either way – this was worthwhile, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first. Does one have to enjoy a book to rate it high? I think so – but that’s just my view. But if you’re after an uplifting experience, forget it. If you want your mind to gnaw on lots of themes, depravity, sex, misery and old fashioned bad luck – this will be worth a look.

These pretty boys in the sky right now, Nixon’ll hog the credit but it was the Democrats put ’em there, it’s been the same story ever since I can remember, ever since Wilson—the Republicans don’t do a thing for the little man.

Did I leave this book with any hope? Nah – not really.

3 Stars
Profile Image for Alex.
1,418 reviews4,382 followers
December 2, 2016
Or Rabbit Gets Woke, in which Rabbit is turned on to and back off of the hippie movement with the convenient help of a barely legal teenager who shows up like "I love blowjobs, can I live with you?" and a crazy black guy who will not shut up. Rabbit Redux is Updike's Go Ask Alice, a bizarre, racist rant about Vietnam and the dangers of marijuana that culminates with the black guy jerking off as Rabbit reads Frederick Douglass out loud to him.

In Rabbit, Run, the plot moved forward largely in sex scenes, enormous chunks of the book that described and deepened the characters as they tried to connect with each other. Many of the pages in Rabbit Redux are also about sex, but now Updike's just spanking to fantasies of pulling interracial Eiffel Towers. It's weird and it's bad.

At least the sex scenes are just bad and not boring, like much of the rest of the book. Speech after speech about Vietnam and the Merovingians and the nature of the universe, delivered by what Updike, who is neither, imagines a pot-addled black guy might sound like. It's so weird that I wonder whether anyone else has ever read this book at all, because shouldn't this be mentioned whenever anyone talks about Updike? "Remember Rabbit Redux, where he reads Frederick Douglass while a guy jerks off in front of him? That was a weird fuckin' disaster, huh?" When Updike died in 2009 there was all this debate over whether he was the greatest writer of the 20th century (David Baddiel) or a penis with a thesaurus (David Foster Wallace). I feel like every article should have led with "John Updike, who once wrote a scene where a dude reads Frederick Douglass while another guy whacks off..."

That was a weird fuckin' disaster, huh?
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,535 followers
February 9, 2017
I felt this was the weakest of the Rabbit books. It covers the 60s and has a particularly reprehensible co-star. There is lots of violence and hate in this book - the hideous underside to the sexual revolution. Obviously, Updike was not taken in by all the peace, love and happiness rhetoric and instead looked at the damage that unbridled sexuality and drug use could have on society - here focusing on how it affects Rabbit and his family. Still a great read and a must before finishing the cycle with Rabbit is Rich and Rabbit at Rest.

It was very full of violence and hate and is a turn off to many readers. Like I said, it is kind of the violent hangover after free love and drugs. A conservative and pitiless view of American society. No wonder most of his books focus on the later 70s in more idyllic New England or Pennsylvania settings - this one is literally a barn-burner and it is truly hard to root for Rabbit all the way through. Fortunately, Updike wrote Rich and At Rest to redeem Rabbit to some extent.
Profile Image for Ben.
74 reviews940 followers
April 14, 2010
A year ago I vowed to myself (and you, if you had read my review of Rabbit, Run) that I’d read a Rabbit novel annually until I’m done with the four-novel series; the idea being that I could look back and see how I’d changed in the past year, comparing the changes in my life with those incurred by Rabbit. But it’s the same shit different day for me over here, ya hear? And I’m not turning this into some kind of self centered review about me-me-me. Instead, I’m going to (eventually) talk about the me-me-me mindset that we’re all guilty of. All of us.

So it’s the 60s, man, and Rabbit’s crazy ass isn’t any smarter; he still goes through life taking things as they come with little self reflection. And if he’s wiser, it ain’t by much; but the people around him have actually grown. His wife, Jancie, tired of not-getting-the-peter from her husband the past decade, finds some Greek douche bag to sleep with. But despite this -- or at times it even seems because of it – Janice is actually growing and starting to enjoy and appreciate life. And since it’s been 10 years since Rabbit, Run, Rabbit’s son, Nelson, is no longer a bebe – he’s now 12, and kind of thinks and acts like a little hippie -- which of course the Vietnam-War-supporting and ex-jock, Rabbit, can’t stand.

So, yes, it’s indeed the 60s: there’s the Pill, lots of good (and bad) drugs; and there’s threats of getting blown up by the Russians; and there’s the Vietnam war where kids are dying for no fucking reason, and everyone knows someone that’s had to go, or is in fear of going himself; and with all the civil rights stuff going on, there’s still blatant, despicable racism. So things are pretty fucked up.

And this novel is well-written -- Updike is someone everyone should read at least once. Aspects of the writing are remarkable, and the novel manages to have heart without delving into kitschy notions of love. But at times the book is ridiculous and silly. Updike swung for the fences; he wanted to represent the 60s in one novel; but it was like he didn’t really immerse himself in it; like he was trying to write about it from the outside, as an observer. Novels written by the “observer writer” can work, of course; but typically, I think, this needs to be from a time-scope many years later, when the vision can be clear.

So the result is that the novel often feels forced. We end up with lots of sex, drug use, a ridiculous black character, fights about Vietnam, racial angst, and a young hippie chick, who of course, sleeps with Rabbit. Totally forced, because it was clear he was trying to capture the era. But like I said, when you try to force that kind of thing too early, as an outside observer, it’s never going to work -- even if you’re John Updike.

Now let’s get back to the issue of selfishness. I used to think it was worse with the baby boomers. My thinking was that the generations before them won wars, and worked hard, and focused on their kids and family, and basically focused on “doing the right thing.” And then I thought that all these hippies basically showed up and that all they wanted to do was party and act like children, never taking responsibility and only thinking about themselves. Utter selfishness. And then, to make it worse, this whole generation (the Baby Boomers) pulled a 180 from some of their few admirable qualities -- those of spurning materialism and having an open mind and loving heart -- to buying a bunch of crap they didn’t need, going into debt, divorcing like crazy, and acting like they could live that way for the rest of their lives. All this while – think financial crisis -- the following generations foot the bill. So you see, I thought, “they’re still as completely selfish as they were in the 60s, just in a different way; a way that just happens to be better suited to their current stage in life.”

”What a shitty generation!” I used to say to friends.

But in recent months I’ve changed my thinking about the Boomers. Just look at the kids these days -- talk about self-obsessed, with their facebook and video games, and constant text messaging. But they do –- thank goodness –- show signs of idealism. And idealism was something that the young generation of the 60s had plenty of. We need youthful idealism -- because let’s face it – if it weren’t for the idealism of the Baby Boomers, we would never have gotten out of Vietnam, or improved race relations as we did, or improved women’s rights as we did. Really, without the Boomers, we probably wouldn’t have escaped the general close-mindedness that had previously pervaded so much of American society.

No, the Boomers didn’t keep their idealism; or, if they did, they turned it inside out, fucking it all up, turning it into something nasty – the culmination of which was the financial crisis. But we’re going to dig out of that hole. In fact, I think the young people, in their own “selfish ways,” have already started to help us progress – maybe not so differently from the way the Boomers did in the 60s. But I wouldn’t know for sure -– it’s too early to tell these things as an outside observer.

; )
Profile Image for Jemppu.
500 reviews91 followers
November 3, 2022
Not as strong or striking as the first encounter with Rabbit, but certain familiar obtuseness and brazenness about its conduct still - if less compelling, that might still be quite befitting with the narrative of Rabbit's current point in life. I remain intrigued for the continuation of the series.

3 to 4 stars.

Reading updates.
Profile Image for Fabian.
947 reviews1,562 followers
February 16, 2020
Like the decade of the 60s, “Rabbit Redux” is a bit tricky. Wee complications arise in so liberal a landscape, especially if the everyman in the novel is absurdly conservative. Add then a haze proliferated by drugs (weed and alcohol and pills) in the mix, and what you have left over is Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, older but none the wiser. This time around, ten years after the first Rabbit novel, Janice, Harry’s sad, insipid wife runs away, leaving Rabbit with the kid. Add then too the elements that made the first book so harsh (affairs, racism and a wholelotta mysogeny) to the national and personal events in that aforementioned decade… and RR is sick, hilarious and very real (employing streamofconsciousness & the third person present-tense).

Basically another tragedy befalls Rabbit as he gives shelter to a young hippie-ish ho and her black escort, a modern revolutionary (who's way into drugs). Confusion in the middle portion of the book basically mirrors the trio’s stupid, selfish drug trance. They all do these drugs with the twelve year old kid present… an American tragedy.

Are all women-- in Updike-- simply stupid? They (Janice, Jill, Peggy, Mrs. Angstrom, Mim) are quite forgiving, ever tolerant of their other-sexed counterparts’ many mistakes. The Man’s World is glorified ...thoroughly.

And--Gosh! Americans are soooooo selfish!!!

The FOUR NOVELS in the tetralogy seem intent on validating this pervasive misogyny and this hybrid form of macho entitlement. Like Fellini in Dolce Vita, one practically expects a woman (any one) to be exhibited and made to perform in front of a drunken crowd, all the while being violently humiliated and feathered. All in good fun!

Updike readers will forgive the complicated themes and enjoy the truly great writing.
Profile Image for MJ Nicholls.
2,023 reviews4,065 followers
March 15, 2012
This book is where the Angstroms became the Osbournes, without the cracking heavy metal catalogue. Or, as other reviewers have pointed out, it’s where Updike tackles Big Questions of American politics and culture within his sexy literary soap opera framework. I also see I was wrong in attempting to empathise with Angstrom—he’s clearly being set up as a Great White Dope, where racist and sexist poison accumulates and infects those unfortunate enough to fall under his sway. So we open with Rabbit’s domestic downfall: Janice has started an affair with a tachycardic Greek and his son Nelson has come to despise pop’s casual racism. Then the book veers into political and social territory as Rabbit picks up teenage prostitute Jill and installs her in his home as a live-in whore. A hippie child spurned by her parents, she is the only likeable character in the whole shebang. And this makes the ‘Skeeter’ section infuriating to read. Skeeter is a Vietnam vet and drug pusher who tries to educate Rabbit in black history over a series of after-dinner talks (Rabbit lets Skeeter stay in his front room), who shoots Jill up on mescaline when Harry’s not looking and spits out the vilest misogynist trash in front of the kid. So we’re sucked into this 150-page spiral, knowing Jill is going to perish at the hands of these imbeciles, screaming at the book GET THIS POOR JUNKIE TO HER MOTHER, but alas, she meets the grizzliest end Updike can imagine, leaving me frazzled with indignation and confusion. Is this scabrous social comment, or a piece of callous authorship? Veering towards the latter. Rabbit’s utter indifference to Jill’s death is also completely ludicrous—his character withers a great deal in this book, which is compelling but oh-so-deeply flawed. I could say more. I’ll spare you. Moira has some good analysis here.
Profile Image for Lea.
852 reviews177 followers
November 24, 2021
I think the biggest crime this book commits is how silly it seems at times when it tries to say something profound about the state of humanity or the 60s. I've never lived in the 60s, obviously, but if you told me this was written by someone who's only skimmed the wikipedia page of the decade I wouldn't bat an eyelid - it reads like a list was ticked off: race relations, drugs, new ideas about sex, landing on the moon, Vietnam war. But they're all handled really weirdly (sometimes in a "edgy" way that just makes you roll your eyes), and the story itself made me feel kind of queasy.

Ten years after the amazing first volume, Rabbit's wife Janice leaves him for a Greek guy whose main talent seems to be that he's great at sex. So far, so good, the book was shaping up to be great, the writing was engaging and stylistically, as always, really slick. Then Rabbit takes in a 19 year old in obvious need of help and unknowingly "buys" her from a group of black radicals (???). The sex between them is pretty uncomfortable, both to read and for the two of them, and Rabbit's son isn't the greatest fan either because she feels like a big sister to him (but he also wants to sleep with or... or did, this is left a little ambigious). Then he also takes in a crazy black man, a veteran who thinks he's the new jesus and argues with Rabbit about the war and gives drugs to the girl to make her pliable and rape her. The racism and misogyny portrayed in this book occasionally felt like it was the point, but a lot of times it seemed accidental and even like Updike was trying to say something completely opposite to what he was trying to say. Or rather: what WAS he trying to say? Just show how Rabbit passively floats through the 60s - but then why make the story line so crazy and over the top?

It feels weird giving 3 stars when the story annoys me so but the writing on a scene by scene and word by word level is still great. Just know that this is a weak installment of the Rabbit series. I fully understand people giving this 1 star because as far enjoyment vs being irritated went, it really fluctuated wildly for me.
Profile Image for Xandra (StarrySkyBooks).
120 reviews149 followers
November 17, 2019
You know those “This is how men write!” jokes we make about how sexist and objectifying the narration is by some male writers?

That’s what this book is like.

Rating: 2 stars. Was I supposed to be blown away by this book, since it is considered one of the best of all time? Because... no thank you.
Profile Image for Amanda.
1,086 reviews222 followers
October 29, 2016
DNF @49%

Sorry Rabbit, you just aren't interesting enough for me to continue.
Profile Image for L.S. Popovich.
Author 2 books323 followers
January 6, 2021
So different from Rabbit, Run. Whereas, I gave the first novel full marks, I have to grade this one down on the enjoyment scale. Updike does not write a simple sentence. He challenges the reader with idea-rich contexts for his melodramatic characters. There was a lot of fun to be had in the first segment. Less so here.

Jumping right into the second part, we are confronted with an entirely different beast. It retreads some tried and true themes: the corruption of youth, interracial relations, godlessness, faith, sex, marriage, sin, greed, hypocrisy, our responsibilities as citizens, and how we can forget our humanity as a result. It does it in a harrowing, up-front, disturbing way.

Rabbit embodies an odd brand of patriotism, takes on the weight of history - or is invested with such by Updike to elevate his otherwise deadened character. Inheriting the sins of our fathers might be another way to distract from our own. Capitalism - easy to make fun of, but why are we still buying so many televisions and happy meals if we hate it so much? The death of the American dream, or the myth, or the lie, combined with the material things that weigh us down, the intangible points of pride in our lives established through toil, and how relationships and lives remain fragile things, destructible through the smallest impulses - this is Rabbit's accustomed territory. The Hell on earth he carefully constructs for himself and his child is perilous in the extreme.

A distasteful novel, at bottom, flying in the face of propriety. Rants, long needling quotations, the death of innocence of every intricately described flower petal. The death of pride, the small death of living in a tenuous lie. So much death.

In a way it is an even braver novel, more daring, another emotional journey but one pickled in hate, irreverent in its choices, and disdainful in its perspective, exploring a hundred permutations of griping, sniping, snapping, grilling, whining, accusing, and belittling. Bitter resentment seethes, people acting out of pure, unadulterated selfishness. We got a dose of that in the first, but Updike outdoes himself. In fact, he doesn't do himself justice. Amid the traumatic remains of his demented decisions, Rabbit's second book is still somehow good, absorbing, put together, catered to incite, but affording that immersive ingredient so salient in Updike's output. That doesn't redeem it, I'm afraid.

The first problem is: the author seems to underestimate his audience. Does he actually believe we need so much graphic detail to put the picture of two rutting human animals together? It's so forced it's brutal. A vacuous bumper car game of bodies against bodies. What happened to subtlety, or a well-chosen tryst after much, meaningful foreplay? Where is the excitement in 450 pages of the same song and dance?

Untethered idealism is replaced by unfettered cynicism. Rabbit's inner dream of freedom takes new shape and form, forces him onto the brink of multiple precipices, leaving many husks of destroyed futures in his wake. He is at war with himself and the world. Nothing is sacred, everything is profane. Death is foreshadowed by his parents, who have settled in to a boring existence, wherein their only function is to marvel at Rabbit's reckless abandon.

Happiness is the most elusive thing on the planet, he would have us believe. It is a chimera of imagination and braggadocio.

The lyric style is more entrenched in ordinary detail, an accumulation of facets of lives struggled through and nearing twilight, wandering through hopelessness and despair.

Stuck in the same town. Rabbit is always on the lamb, whether it's his country, history, friends, lovers, politics, the mere presence of other people is an exasperation.

Powerlessness, stemming from deep-seated shame goads him toward the abyss. He is infuriating, intolerable. An abject human insect.

This is all communicated through free association rants, mingling racial tension, pure prejudice, sexual fixation, the past and present, new forms of dense soliloquy. A lot of repetitive spite. Dense layers of period detail - all Updike branded indulgence.

A new kind of claustrophobia emerges. Resigned, encumbered by the years Rabbit's banal ramblings are drained of vivacity, bloated, infected by his body's withering stink. He is gripping at the margin of insanity, makes of his own life an imitation, remaining empty inside, somehow becoming emptier.

Nonetheless, Updike will still surprise you with a phrase, a subtle image and a stray brilliance on every other page. Through his main character, he takes up arms against the opinions of the time, shielding himself in this wish fulfilling madness. Bitterness, righteous bigotry, and much pompous assery erupts into vile volcanoes of spite, swallowing Rabbit's loved ones.

An expert in the vain art of making people uncomfortable, our Don Juan protagonist takes it as a challenge to unseat everyone from their high horse. Incessantly crude, obnoxious and pathetic, against the backdrop of the moon landing and race riots, his paltry charades grow tiresome quickly, stretch out into agonizing paroxysms of grueling sufferance.

Babe's piano playing is one of the novel's best scenes. The onslaught of Skeeter is a glorious train wreck, too verbose for it's own good. The final chapter devoted partially to Mim was beyond refreshing, as hard to swallow or credit as the rest of the tripe Updike fed us for 400 pages. It drops all pretense of innocence, wonder and elegiac naivete. It's a monstrous depiction of dissolution. A competition. A phallic measurement. Walking penumbral ghosts of ideas instead of characters. Tests our patience, to push every envelope and see how much he can get away with. It's revolting.
80% dialogue - perhaps a tad padded.

Does this ruin my opinion of Updike canon? No. There's a lot in there. It isn't all so inflated, mean or sad. I'm hopeful.
Profile Image for Moira.
512 reviews25 followers
April 14, 2010
This is actually cut and pasted from a long comment on someone else's review! It focuses primarily on this book, altho there are some sentiments in it I'd apply to all the Rabbit stories.


warning! terribly tl;dr

Ben said:
Updike swung for the fences; he wanted to represent the 60s in one novel; but it was like he didn’t really immerse himself in it; like he was trying to write about it from the outside, as an observer. Novels written by the “observer writer” can work, of course; but typically, I think, this needs to be from a time-scope many years later, when the vision can be clear.

I think this is a really important point - I also think sadly this side of Updike is typical, and maybe was brought to the forefront by his 'working up' essay-reviews on books and other topics for various newspapers and magazines. The idea is you have a smart mind + lots of books + ton of research = You Are There, but it winds up looking like one of those cheezy network television retrospective specials. His forays into historical writing - that awful play about Buchanan, the dreadful In The Beauty of the Lilies, the tepid Seek My Face - are usually bad, because he lacks both the analytic and philosophical skills necessary to draw broad social networks, and the intense psychological absorption necessary to portray another human consciousness convincingly. His writing is at once deeply personal (it's all about himself) and impersonal - the patterns of language are almost abstract (in this I think he served himself ill by taking Nabokov for a master, but anyway).

The characters of Jill and Skeeter in this book are disastrous - worse than inept, I'd argue, they are fundamentally dishonest. I don't think an author necessarily has to personally empirically experience everything they write about (hello, Wuthering Heights and so on), but Updike's later cringe-inducing absolute misfires, all the way from The Coup to the dreadful, dreadful Terrorist (in the acknowledgements he thanks 'Islam for Dummies,' IIRC) indicate not a failure of experience but empathy. That bad-sex passage everyone quotes with a kind of cringing grin - something in the Widows of Eastwick about how the woman just loves giving herself a facial with fresh ejaculate - isn't just badly written, it's badly _imagined._ Who could think an actual woman might actually react like that? Does he actually _know_ any women? Yes, his writing rushes to assure us, oh yes, yes he does. Oh yes. Most intimately. And thoroughly. From the outside. (The portrayal of Janice through all the Rabbit books and stories is really a triumph of unconscious misogyny. The sad thing is Updike apparently thinks he's presenting her sympathetically....)

When Updike is on, his typical oh-my-god-the-revelation-in-these-pigeon-feathers-that-golf-stroke-those-women's-asses-over-there minute observations can make you feel indeed that he is giving the reader the gift not of seeing something for the first time but of _re_-seeing it freshly, which is really rare, especially in popular fiction. But the technique also reminds me of Pre-Raphaelite landscapes -- every blade of grass, every veined leaf, is luminously, maddeningly outlined, and as a result the slavish depiction of reality becomes almost surreal.

So I personally think Updike is actually at his worst in his 'naturalist Americana' writing like the Rabbit books, and it boggles me why they were awarded prizes and are frequently the most-assigned and most-read of his novels. I think judging him by them does him a real disservice. When he writes about his own swingin' seventies (going barefoot, eating lobster, Martha's Vineyard, fucking the neighbours, &c &c) it's at least halfway interesting and well-done. When he tries to project his own personal visions of liberation and loss onto AMERICA IN GENERAL as THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL, I just wind up irritated and confused.

(from yet another comment)

-- I should add I found the central eponymous figure of Rabbit himself a failure as a character: Rabbit is Updike's _idea_ of what a Big Dumb Jock type might be, so he is simultaneously patronizing (has Rabbit ever read a book? No, right?) and way too articulate/observant (the book is limited 3P but there are lovely lyrical bits, like 'Sun and moon, sun and moon, time goes,' which are so totally Updike-Not-Rabbit they throw me right out of the book).

(BUT, I think Ruth is an amazingly well-developed female character. I really did like her. She might be one of my favourite Updike characters.)
Profile Image for ☮Karen.
1,491 reviews9 followers
August 26, 2018
As part of the PopSugar Challenge, I opted to listen to #2 in Updike's Rabbit series, which takes place in 1969 while Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom is a supposedly responsible adult enjoying the fact that America is fighting the Viet Cong, and lamenting the fact that his wife Janice is leaving him for a guy she works with (and is opposed to the war). Harry is the Everyman in his opinions and lifestyle. It was like a walk down memory lane to hear his arguments about politics and race, and he is very opinionated. Although this grew tiresome, eventually I think even Harry begins to see the error in some of his thinking and allows himself to be influenced by a young woman and black militant he takes into his home because they have no where else to turn. Some of the spouting off held tremendous shock value, and with that plus the very weird middle sections of the book, I thought about abandoning it. But I seldom do that, so I decided instead to finish this and then not to read any more of the Rabbit books...although I hear they get better and better. 3 stars.
Profile Image for Anthony.
Author 4 books1,861 followers
October 11, 2021
I reread the first Rabbit book — Rabbit, Run — last year, and loved it; I found its clear-eyed depiction of a pathetically frightened embodiment of toxic masculinity to be incisive and propulsively written. Decades ago, I only ever made it through this, the second, Rabbit book, and I was eager to reread it and finally make it through the rest. I think I still may read the final two novels in this tetralogy, but I found this one to be a wearying disappointment the further I got into it.

Rabbit remains a problematic character, which isn’t a problem in and of itself for me; I think there’s real value in such characters being brought to life and examined, as authors hold a mirror up to the human condition. But in this case, it feels like Updike was also getting a little soft on him, and Updike’s efforts to address Rabbit’s — and the community’s — racism, which I imagine were unusually bold at the time, feel forced and inauthentic.

There are still many moments throughout that feel alive and troubling and darkly funny, and some of the poetic writing sings; but too much of the time this novel spins its wheels.
Profile Image for Greg.
1,109 reviews1,843 followers
January 19, 2009
I wrote this review a few years ago for a different site. I called it Rabbit's A Reactionary Racist. It's been edited a little bit from it's original context.

What is the novel about? Well it’s about Harry ‘Rabbit’ Angstrom: a man in his early thirties, with a wife, a son and a job on the verge of being made obsolete by technology. In the first novel, Rabbit ran away from his wife and young child. The novel dealt with the way he is pulled between his freedom and responsibility. In Rabbit’s second appearance on the literary scene he is at the other end of the estranged spouse paradigm. Rabbit’s wife leaves him to live with her smooth talking car salesman boyfriend. After being cuckold by his wife Rabbit feels sorry for himself, blames his troubles on others, shacks up with an 18 year old hippie, lets an African American criminal on the run move into his house, works through 400 years of racial injustice through his discussions with the hippie and the criminal, has his house burned down by racist neighbors and ultimately gets back together with his wife. This all sounds sort of familiar if you’ve read the first novel. Many of the incidents have just been changed slightly and the novels overly peppered with events from 1969 to make sure the reader never forgets that the action takes place as man first walked on the moon, Laugh-In and the Mod Squad played on the telly and movie-goers were packing theatres to see Kubrick’s cerebral 2001: A Space Odyssey. The actions similar to the first tale of Rabbit but the times are a changing. Poor Rabbit though isn’t changing with the times though. Maybe if Updike could have written Rabbit as adapting better to the turmoil of the 60’s this novel would have been more enjoyable (or at least less offensive).

I might be wrong but I don’t think the word cunt was generally used to describe women in 1969. . I don’t think the word experienced much of a mainstream vogue in America, but if I took Updike’s picture of the cultural terrain of America at this time as an example then I’d believe that good Americans, Conservative Americans at the time believed that women could be reduced to this term. Not just reduced but defined as just being walking cunt’s with interchangeable faults attributed to them. Updike uses this term more often that Irvine Welsch does. The word is used constantly to an annoying degree. Added to the excessive use of this word as catch all for all women (except for poor Rabbit’s mom) is a good healthy dose of racism. Rabbit believes it’s not worth his son caring too much about a girl he likes being dead because there are a few billion more cunt’s in the world. Rabbit doesn’t like blacks on the bus with him because they smell. Rabbit doesn’t like hippies because they don’t love the country. Rabbit likes the idea of bombing Vietnam into the pre-historic age. Rabbit’s a good American trying to raise his son but only thinks twice before joining his counter-culture housemates in smoking dope in front of his kid. Rabbit’s a total hypocrite.

One might try to argue that through his talks with the on the lam criminal, Skeeter, that Updike shows the way that even the close minded archetype of middle America can learn to empathize with Civil Rights. One might if they were ignoring the way that Updike treats all of his minority characters. There are three African American characters. One if a drunk co-worker / part time pimp, the second is a pot smoking alcohol swilling lounge singer / prostitute, and the third is Skeeter a small time pot dealer / irrational revolutionary who thinks his the living incarnation of Jesus Christ. The first two characters are presented for color and for Rabbit to have masturbatory fantasies about. The third argues the case for Black Power in the most schizophrenic, irrational and flat out moronic manner possible who discredits all of Civil Rights leaders in favor of some acid induced logic. Rabbit starts to agree with him at times, which makes no sense except to prove that Rabbit’s a moron. I don’t know what Updike was trying to do with this. Especially because he wastes almost half of the book involved in these discussions between Rabbit and Skeeter.

This novel left me feeling kind of offended. Aside being offended I felt nothing. The prose is nice and clean but I have hundreds of books that are well written. I know that I’m going to read the last two novels with clenched teeth because I am unable to not finish a book or a series no matter how much I hate it. I don’t recommend entering into Rabbit’s world, or if you do read the first novel and then use your imagination about what he would be doing ten years down the road.
Profile Image for Steve.
802 reviews226 followers
April 15, 2015
Weirdly, as I read the last page, it struck me that this book, which is jammed with late-60s turmoil, is at heart a book about the sacredness or, perhaps better, the ongoing bond of marriage. Given all the (graphic) infidelity, that may be surprising, but I was reminded of the theological thread that ran through the earlier Rabbit, Run. In Redux, it's more muted, but early on we get a glimpse of the religious component as Rabbit admits to sometimes praying on the bus. Why not at home? I'm not sure I know, though maybe he senses his marriage to Janice is falling apart, while the outside world is rapidly changing. But God, as a presence or "other" remains an important part, despite his bad behavior, of Rabbit's world.

The setting (1969), 10 years after the events in Rabbit, Run, shows an older (36), fatter, more understandable (but still often unlikable) Rabbit Angstrom. He's -- on surface at least -- reconciled with his wife Janice, they have a house in the suburbs, and their son, Nelson, now 13, and with long hair, is growing up. Rabbit works as a linotyper with his father, while Janice has started working at a Toyota dealership owned by her father. But there are discernible cracks from the first page on. Rabbit has been living a death in life existence. His relationship with Jill is largely sexless (amazing when one considers the horny character with the constantly roving eye from the first novel). It's as if Rabbit, much more self-aware, is doing penance for the death of the baby, Becky, though Rabbit is always quick to consistently and cruelly blame Jill for her death. The good news here is that Jill refuses to be baited. She fights back. She even has an affair. The sad, often drunk young woman from the first novel, has become a much richer character. Upon the affair being exposed, she is defiant up to a point, but she practically offers Rabbit, after a hot night (she's learned some new things) of seeming reconciliation, a chance to reciprocate by showing some affection and asking her to stay. Rabbit being Rabbit, tells her to do what she wants. He virtually pushes her toward her lover.

Enter Jill, a rich, 18 year old drug addict who has run away from home. Rabbit takes her in, and she provides Rabbit with some sexual healing. Jill is clean from drugs, and things seem to be going well (Nelson worships her), what with her making dinners better than Janice, playing guitar, and being so hippie dippy. Of particular interest to Rabbit is Jill's having seen God during an LSD trip. The fly in this unconventional domestic arrangement (which infuriates Janice -- who now lives with her car salesman lover) soon arrives in the person of Skeeter, a black drug dealing ex-Vietnam vet who has skipped bail, and needs a place to hide. I suspect it's the "Skeeter" section of the book (nearly a 100 pages long) that loses people. Skeeter won't shut up. He's constantly spouting revolutionary bullshit which, in Updike world, is a form of intellectual masturbation that eventually turns into the real thing. Updike, as I've said before, is a writer of remarkable control, so it's hard for me condemn this portion as writerly excess, but more as one to show Updike's dim view of the excesses of the late 60s. (In some ways he reminds me of Robert Stone here.) And on the subject of the I'm OK -- You're OK late 60s , I found Updike's treatment far more authentic than Roth's in American Pastoral. Anyway, it all adds up to a descent, a hellish one that involves degradation of Jill (a character I really liked), drug use by Rabbit, and child abuse to Nelson via exposure to all of this crap. It's no accident that this all ends in fire -- and tragedy.

The last section of the book is devoted to the visit by Mim, Rabbit's sister. Mim is a high priced prostitute from out West, and she's flown in to see Rabbit's parents, particularly Rabbit's mother, who is dying. This is the part I had trouble with, as her appearance has a real dues ex machina quality to it, though I doubt as a literary tool, at least in my reading experience, it's ever been done with a whore before. (Updike is a very puckish writer!) Anyway, Mim surveys the emotional landscape and its players, makes some calculated "moves," starts things in motion, and jets back to Vegas. The novel could have faltered here, but Updike unspools a remarkable reconciliation between Rabbit and Janice that remains true to the characters and yet shows their growth. Janice and Rabbit are no longer the children of the first novel, but we still recognize them, just as they recognize each other: older, a bit battered by experience, maybe not even liking each other so much, but still bound together for the long haul. This very believable transformation for the two demonstrates, to me, a literary skill that's quite rare. The authorial wink at the end is something only a master can get away with, and Updike is a master.
Profile Image for Julie G .
883 reviews2,742 followers
May 9, 2014
It's summer, 1969, and man lands on the moon. Five, four, three, two, one. . . and, oh, hell, turns out the moon's just another cold rock, another land of isolation. You could, in fact, argue, that it's a lot like Earth. (Or, that's what the brilliant Updike does.)

And, if you're a literary weirdo like I am, you can't HELP but read this novel and think of T.S. Eliot's The Hollow Men:

This is the dead land
This is the cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man's hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.
Is it like this
In death's other kingdom
Waking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone.

Rabbit Angstrom (ANGST-rom?) is back, and he's barreling toward the impassivity of middle age. He was a near-sociopath to begin with, now he's just damned depressing. You think you can handle the truth? Go ahead and read it! Just take your meds first.
Profile Image for Aggeliki Spiliopoulou.
270 reviews62 followers
September 7, 2021
Δέκα χρόνια μετά, ο Λαγός παύει να τρέχει κυνηγώντας την ουρά του, και επιστρέφει. Η οικογένεια ενώνεται, οι πληγές του παρελθόντος με τα ψιμύθια των ανασφαλειών καλύπτονται παραμένοντας ανοιχτές, οι σαθρές βάσεις των σχέσεων οδηγούν σε ρήξη. Αυτή τη φορά είναι η σύζυγος του που τον εγκαταλείπει και μάλιστα για κάποιον άλλο. Ο άλλοτε παρορμητικός Λαγός παραμένει απαθής. Δέχεται κάθετί στωικά, παραδομένος στο κάρμα. Ο πατριωτισμός έχει πάρει τη θέση της θρησκευτικής πίστης στη ζωή του. Υπερασπιστής του αμερικανικού ονείρου και του πολέμου στο Βιετνάμ, προσπαθεί να νιώσει ασφαλής, περιχαρακωμένος στις κοινωνικές νορμες του παρελθόντος.
Μέσα σε αυτή τη δεκαετία οι χαρακτήρες έχουν ωριμάσει, έχουν απελευθερωθεί και απεγκλωβιστεί από τα κοινωνικά στερεότυπα του πουριτανισμού.
Είμαστε στη χρονιά που η αποστολή Απόλλων 11 προσεδάφισε τους δύο πρώτους ανθρώπους στη Σελήνη, η πετρελαϊκή κρίση έχει αρχίσει, οι φυλετικές διακρίσεις οδηγούν σε επεισόδια και συμπλοκές, αντιπολεμικές πορείες κατά του πολέμου του Βιετνάμ ξεσπούν, η δική των 8 του Σικάγου και όσα αυτή αντιπροσωπεύει για τη νέα εποχή στην Αμερική της δεκαετίας του '70 είναι γεγονός.
Οι νέες τεχνολογίες φέρνουν αλλαγές ��ε τις θετικές και αρνητικές τους συνέπειες.
Τα δικαιώματα και η ελευθερία κείτονται στα ερείπια μιας αποσαθρωμένης κοινωνίας που αναγεννάται μέσα από τις στάχτες της.

Το επίμετρο του Χρήστου Χωμενίδη δε θα μπορούσε παρά να είναι εκρηκτικό!!!
Profile Image for Laura.
6,869 reviews556 followers
November 29, 2017
From BBC Radio 4 - Book at Bedtime:
John Updike's masterful Rabbit quintet established Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom as the quintessential American White middle class male. The first book Rabbit, Run was published in 1960 to critical acclaim. Rabbit Redux is the second in the series, published in 1971 and charting the end of the sixties - featuring, among other things, the first American moon landing and the Vietnam War.

Despite its very strong language, sex, and reflection of racist attitudes of the time, Time Magazine said of the book and its author, "Updike owns a rare verbal genius, a gifted intelligence and a sense of tragedy made bearable by wit. A masterpiece."

It's extraordinary how many of its themes reverberate down to the present day.

Abridged by Eileen Horne
Read by Toby Jones
Produced by Clive Brill
A Brill production for BBC Radio 4.

Profile Image for Freddie Sykes .
717 reviews
November 4, 2022
Rabbit Raps

This book is an excellent Time Capsule and a pleasant reminder for any of us who were around fifty-odd years ago; when things were so different.

Back then the Hippies said whatever they wanted and no one really gave a shit.

But what's remarkable, and what this book inadvertently points out is that back then the Rednecks said whatever they wanted too. Nobdody lost his job or was put in jail for saying something -- there really was Freedom of Speech and (gasp!) even Freedom of Rhetoric.

I remember those days. People actually spoke their minds back then. It didn't even take courage to say what you thought; everyone did it. Things were a lot more fun and interesting that way.

Nowadays I can count on one hand the number of people I know who will speak their minds. In those days I could count on one cloven-hoof the number who wouldn't.

Nowadays, almost everyone I know is a sniveling coward and because they are sniveling cowards and weaklings they have surrendered their Freedom of Speech. And it serves them right. I was in the USSR back in the Cold War days and the serfs there were LESS afraid to say what they thought than 21st Century Americans are. You people really aren't worth saving. Even if you had an original thought -- unless it was some New Way to be Gay -- you'd be too chicken to voice it.

Maybe I go too far: not everyone spoke his mind in 1970. I suppose the kiddie-diddlers pretty much kept it to themselves what was going through their heads. Plus all the other people who think up all the New Ways to be Gay, they probably were pretty private about it. Jeffrey Dahmer and criminals hatching plans for new heists probably kept things Bottled Up too. But I suspect these types never have enjoyed the full benefits of Freedom of Speech.

Fun Part:

1. Near the beginning: Rabbit lecturing the greaseball in the restaurant.

Shit Part:

1. Interminable Black Panthers/BLM horseshit in italics. I should give this book only one star just because of this.
2. Although not NEARLY as bad as Rabbit, Run (which was almost 100% gibberishy pondering), there's way, way, way too much cryptic pondering in this one too. It gets worse towards the end of the book.
3. Too much sex. If I wanted to read about porking, I'd turn on the CC on PornHub.

It might sound like I lament the loss of our Freedom of Speech. Not at all. You chickenshit worms don't deserve it. And you have nothing to say anyway.

You're in the pockets of Big Chicken AND Big Parrot.
Profile Image for Brian.
313 reviews49 followers
August 28, 2021
For the second book in his Rabbit Angstrom series, John Updike revisits Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom ten years down the road, in the summer and early fall of 1969. Rabbit is no longer running. In fact, he reflects that no one calls him “Rabbit” anymore. For the past ten years, he’s been working with his father in a printing plant. His wife, Janice, works at her father’s car dealership. Harry and Janice are now living with their son Nelson, now 12 years old, in a house in the nice Penn Vista neighborhood, a definite step up from their old apartment in Mt. Judge.

Harry sees the world changing around him, but he feels stuck in the same place he’s always been. Janice’s assessment is that Harry “‘wants to live an old-fashioned life, but nobody does that anymore, and he feels it. He put his life into rules he feels melting away now. I mean, I know he thinks he’s missing something …’” Looking at his life, he feels that it’s gotten emptier over the years. As a man whose high-school basketball career was the high point of his life, he worries for Nelson. “How can he get the kid interested in sports? If he’s too short for basketball, then baseball. Anything, just to put something there, some bliss, to live on later for a while. If he goes empty now he won’t last at all, because we get emptier.”

Janice isn’t satisfied with her life either. And this time around, it’s she rather than Harry who takes action. She begins an affair with a co-worker, Charlie Stavros, and moves in with him, leaving Harry and Nelson on their own. In his loneliness and desire for something different, Harry takes a risk and accepts an invitation from a black co-worker, Lester Buchanan, to join him at a bar catering to black patrons.

The evening changes Rabbit’s trajectory. He leaves the bar with an 18-year-old white girl, Jill, who has run away (or more accurately, driven away in her Porsche) from her wealthy family in Connecticut and found her way to the drug scene in the black neighborhood. Jill moves into Harry’s house, and Harry and Jill become lovers. Nelson latches on to her as if she’s his big sister.

But Jill hasn’t completely left the drug scene behind. One day when Harry comes home, he’s greeted by a skinny young black man named Skeeter, whom Harry met the same night he met Jill. Skeeter has skipped out on bail. Against his better judgment, Harry agrees to let Skeeter stay for a few days.

Skeeter is even more of a game-changer for Harry than Jill is. Skeeter has some credibility with Harry because he’s a Vietnam veteran, and Harry supports the war. But Skeeter is also arrogant and self-absorbed and enjoys provoking Harry. He subjects Harry to long rants about racism and the war. He is open about his drug use and gets Harry to start smoking marijuana with him. Skeeter also gets Jill back into drugs and eventually flaunts sex with her in front of Harry. But Harry does nothing to intervene.

It soon becomes clear that nothing good can come from Harry’s new living arrangement. And nothing does. Far from it, in fact. When Harry’s sister, Mim, comes home for a visit, she takes him to task. Her take is different from Janice’s when it comes to Harry’s relationship with rules: “‘Everybody else has a life they try to fence in with some rules. You just do what you feel like and then when it blows up or runs down you sit there and pout.’” It’s not running, but is it any better?

I think Rabbit, Run is a brilliant book, but I don’t think Rabbit Redux is as good. I do think Updike’s prose here is often as beautifully descriptive and incisive as in the earlier book. His characters are as vivid as they were. And he deals masterfully with important themes in American society.

I also like how Updike anchors the Rabbit books in a specific timeframe by reference to news events. The Apollo 11 moon landing and the death of Mary Jo Kopechne in Ted Kennedy’s car at Chappaquiddick, which occur within two days of each other as the book opens, help set the scene for the America in which Harry finds himself in the summer of 1969. And, of course, the biggest ongoing issues are the Vietnam War and racial unrest, which suffuse the book and are often the themes of Skeeter’s in-your-face monologues and Rabbit’s musings.

But I found myself to be very disappointed by the casual misogyny that dominates much of the description and dialogue. I can understand using the “c-word” once or twice to refer to or describe women, but dozens or scores of times? Maybe it’s just a case of Updike going overboard on responding to what he perceives as the zeitgeist of the late 1960s, but I think the book would have been better if he had toned it down.

If you’re only going to read one book in the Rabbit Angstrom series, this shouldn’t be the one. But if you intend to read the entire series, as I do, you really can’t pass this one by, because it’s critical to the structure of the series, in which Updike is developing his characters by revisiting their lives every ten years. And even when he’s not at his best, Updike is still one of the best novelists of his time.
Profile Image for Ericka Clou.
2,102 reviews163 followers
December 15, 2019
This a strange book. It takes place in the 1960s, and Rabbit is racist and misogynistic, like a lot of people were/are in real life. Rabbit experiences some growth on the racist front, though Rabbit is so flawed that it's very incomplete. I noticed no growth on his misogynism. More importantly, on the racial front, Updike’s writing is grotesque, even apart from and independently of the inner workings of the character of Rabbit. I'm not a fan of striking books because they're out-of-date (as this one surely is) because we need to look at what seemed normal in a particular time period to understand where we are now. We are still deeply flawed now, and we need to examine why we've come such a small distance in the last 60 years.

The plot mostly creeped me out and seemed overly outlandish. The description of the book above calls it "sexy" and it's the opposite of sexy. All the sex scenes are sad and horrible to me.

Updike is a really good writer and there's a lot of good writing in this big flawed book. I liked the first book better, though I've heard some people say this is their favorite of the set. I can't say I actually enjoyed this one.
Profile Image for Greg.
1,802 reviews18 followers
August 22, 2021
UPDATE: I know I'll read "Rabbit Angstrom" again, so I'm looking for copies on the cheap in used book stores. (I like other people's notes in margins anyway.) I just found a paperback of "Rabbit Redux" oddly stamped with a price of $22.20 inside the cover but marked down to $1.50, the original price in 1972. That's a discount of $20.70!
Yes, angst is right, page after page of it. And, to make matters worse, this book has not aged well at all. Most of "Redux" is preachy 1960's politics and the racism and xenophobia on display make this a tough read. Even if one is able to credit Updike with ranting against these issues, the experience of reading this book is unpleasant. And I found some scenes simply unbelievable (good grief, why not close the curtains of the house when the neighbors complain?). Had I not read "Rabbit Run" previously (which I thought was beautifully written but still a "downer"), I may not have finished this. Not awful, just icky at times.
Profile Image for Stewart.
67 reviews4 followers
March 16, 2009
What makes Rabbit one of the most compelling characters in American literature? By all objective accounts he is scum of the earth, a man who ought to be jailed for spousal abuse and child neglect, not to mention his serial adultery, drug abuse, racial epithets and harboring of a fugitive. Yet Rabbit remains a sympathetic figure, because through him Updike creates a mirror; Rabbit's considerable flaws do not sink inward, as part of his character, but bounce outward back at the society he chafes against throughout the novel, specifically the hedonism and strife of the civil rights era in which it is set. In the first book, he sought freedom from the drudgery of domesticity. In this second book, we learn that he has acceded to his suburban fate, and the novel concerns the tragic consequences of his misguided (to say the least!) attempts to reinvigorate his life through one hurtful, reckless act after another. Why don't we hate Rabbit? Because by the end of this masterful work we realize that he hates himself more than we ever could.
192 reviews2 followers
January 4, 2009
This is the second novel in the Rabbit tetraology, written in 1971. John Updike is without a doubt one of the best novelists of the past 50 years. Some authors like Updike and Philip Roth write with such ease it is obvious when you read their prose.

Ten years after the first Rabbit novel, this book is about many things - marital infedilty and the challenges of middle-age, the 1960s, Vietnam and of course the furher development of Harry Angstrom, an anti-hero whose best times seem to be behind him. Harry goes through life seemingly uncaring about anything that happens to him.

Some may be repulsed by the anti-hero archtype, wishing they could reach into the book and slap the lead character to get a reaction. If however, you can resist that feeling, you will instead turn each page wondering, hoping, Harry will feel something.

I found this novel better written than the first one, which is easily attributable to Updike maturation as a novelist. I really look forward to the third book in the series - Rabbit is Rich.
Profile Image for Linda.
464 reviews1 follower
October 13, 2016
Well, this book started off more interesting than Rabbit, Run, but a good chunk of the middle dragged with talk of Vietnam, racial tensions, sexual conquests, along with a good fair share of uncomfortable scenes and degrading language. And then the end picked up enough to make me want to find out what happens in the third book...
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