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.
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Rabbit Redux is the sequel to the novel Rabbit, Run written by John Updike, featuring as its protagonist, Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom. When we left Rabbit at the conclusion of Rabbit Run, he had just suffered the loss of his infant daughter through the negligence of his estranged, alcoholic wife. Rabbit Redux finds Angstrom ten years later, reconciled with his wife Janice, living a mundane existence with his wife and teen aged son in a dead end job. Things soon spice up, however, as Harry’s wife leaves him and he falls in with two interesting characters, an eighteen year old runaway hippie chick from Connecticut named Jill, and a twenty something year old African-American Vietnam veteran and radical fugitive from the law named Skeeter. Needless to say, the combination makes for quite an explosive household, even more so given Harry’s mainstream conservative political and social outlook.The time frame of the story is 1969. The moon landing is in progress and the Vietnam War is in full swing. The Civil Rights movement is active and social unrest is ever present. Harry supports the War and the Nixon administration. He is uncomfortable around African-Americans and views them as largely leeches and lazy hangers on. The conversations between Harry and his new housemates are enlightening both to Harry and likely to the reader. Harry’s poor fourteen year old son is not only a witness, but an active participant in much that goes on.While much of the writing is entertaining and very well done, it must be noted that at times, Updike seems to fly off on wild screeds of florid, almost unintelligible prose that leave the reader simply rolling his eyes. Nevertheless, the characters contained in the story are well presented and fleshed out beautifully, even some of the more peripheral players. By and large, I enjoyed not only underlying story, but much of the give and take contained in the political discussions between Harry and his more radical new friends. I look forward to the third Rabbit installment, Rabbit is Rich.more
The second stage of Harry Angstrom, ten years later, finds Harry working as a printer at the Val in the dead end job he never wanted. Harry is described as “Now when he plays basketball he is heavy”. His son is 13 and he and his wife live in the massed produced, ranch style home in the new suburbia while the downtown areas are being turned into parking lots. In this story, Janice engages in an affair and leaves her husband. Harry is a conservative man in a flower child, dope smoking, Black Panther world of the late sixties as the Vietnam War grows less and less popular. Updike carries through with his themes of guilt, sex and death from the first book Rabbit, Run with the addition of racism. Sex and racism play a big part in this book. In fact it’s a little too over the top for me but, hey, it was the big deal in the sixties with free love, women’s rights and all. So Updike catches the times succinctly and that is what I liked about this book. It was so real, so part of my “younger life” with ephemera of 2001: Space Odyssey movie, Armstrong landing on the moon, families sitting around mindlessly watching TV and programming like Laugh In. The Beatles music of Hey Jude and Yesterday is mentioned, as well as civil unrest, riots and the trial of the Chicago 8. Death is a major theme as well as in such quotes as “life does want death” and “To be alive is to kill.” (page 310) and “…to die will be to be forever wide awake.”(317)more
Something of a disappointment after Rabbit, Run...even more disgusting, but without any of the redeeming values. It isn't even as well written...there are a few nice passages, but also a lot of nonsense, and sometimes Updike can't even manage to write grammatically (he's especially bad about keeping his pronouns straight, which is just lazy writing, and a bit of a common problem for him but I noticed it more this book than most of his others).In Rabbit Redux, Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom's wife leaves him for another man, and he gets himself entangled with a hippie girl and her crazy, messianic, drug-pushing revolutionary black lover. Set in the summer of '69 to a backdrop of racial tensions, the Vietnam war, the moon landing, etc., the story is almost more written for the sake of the backdrop than the other way around. For much of the novel, Rabbit is just a foil to express all the wrong views---he is racist, pro-Vietnam, etc. Unfortunately, the "ideas" offered as an alternative (mostly through the rather obnoxious rantings of Skeeter, the black lover), are merely half-baked Marxist economics and half-baked mysticism (both of which were half-baked to begin with). If this was really the best the '60s had to offer on either side, I'm glad I wasn't alive then---but I get the feeling this is just the best Updike had to offer.Really, the best part of the book were some passages excerpted from Frederick Douglass, but the way these were framed within the story was disgusting. Douglass was a truly great man, and Updike wants to let nothing remain great. That should tell you all you need to know.more
I didn't care for this second book in the series, too much postualating which I found exhausting. I still couldn't put it down (although I skipped some passages) and am intrigued by Rabbit and his family. I am trying to read something else instead of beginning Rabbit is Rich, but may have to just go ahead and read it..more
Presumably the dud of Updike's Rabbit sequels, this instalment was obsessed with sleaze and slavery, whisking us away from the superb stories of its predecessor and instead harping on endlessly about black messiahs and middle-class concubines. The sub-plot involving Rabbit's wife Janice comes closer to the magic of the first book in the series, and ultimately saved me from hating this one.more
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