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John Updike: Rabbit, Run

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Every now and then I read a novel that leaves me wholly indifferent. That's just fine. If you like everything there's something wrong with your critical faculties. Rabbit, Run by John Updike is considered one of the classics of 20th century American fiction. Time included it in its 100 Best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005. In 2006 The New York Times listed the four Rabbit Angstrom novels, Rabbit, Run, Rabbit Redux, Rabbit is Rich and Rabbit at Rest among the best works of American fiction published in the last 25 years. (The list was based on a survey among a couple of hundred prominent writers, critics and editors. Beloved by Toni Morrison received the most votes.) With that much praise I thought I should read it as well, if only to have an informed opinion.

While I did finish it, I did so more out of a sense of duty than for the pleasure of reading it. The entire novel feels rather dated. Now this can be both a good and a bad thing. Rabbit, Run was first published in 1960 and is set in the 1950s. It therefore captures the time better than novels set in the 1950s published today. However, for some reason I felt that the writing itself was a bit dated.

As I may have written before I'm a bit allergic to love stories and relationship dramas so I probably shouldn't have picked up Rabbit, Run in the first place. It did remind me why I don't like love stories: there are so many other stories to be told. I would have found it much more interesting to read about Harry Angstrom's work than about his troubled family life.

The other three Rabbit novels follow Rabbit at later stages in his life. In itself this is quite interesting, but after reading Rabbit, Run I've lost interest in Harry Angstrom.