Rabbit, Run (Updike)

Rabbit, Run (Rabbit Quartet, #1)
John Updike, 1960
Random House
272 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780449911655

Harry Angstrom was a star basketball player in high school and that was the best time of his life. Now in his mid-20s, his work is unfulfilling, his marriage is moribund, and he tries to find happiness with another woman. But happiness is more elusive than a medal, and Harry must continue to run—from his wife, his life, and from himself, until he reaches the end of the road and has to turn back. (From the publishers.)

Author Bio
Birth—March 18, 1932
Where—Reading, Pennsylvania, USA
Death—January 27, 2009
Where—Danvers, Massachusetts
Education—A.B., Harvard University; also studied at the
   Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art in Oxford, England
Awards—National Book Award for The Centaur, 1964;
   Pulitzer Prizer, National Book Critics Circle Award, and
   National Book Award for Rabbit Is Rich, 1982; Pulitzer Prize
   and National Book Critics Circle Award for Rabbit at Rest,

With an uncommonly varied oeuvre that includes poetry, criticism, essays, short stories, and novels, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner John Updike has helped to change the face of late-20th-century American literature.

Born in Reading, Pennsylvania, Updike graduated summa cum laude from Harvard in 1954. Following a year of study in England, he joined the staff of The New Yorker, establishing a relationship with the magazine that continues to this day. Since 1957, he has lived in two small towns in Massachusetts that have inspired the settings for several of his stories.

In 1958, Updike's first collection of poetry was published. A year later, he made his fiction debut with The Poorhouse Fair. But it was his second novel, 1960's Rabbit, Run, that forged his reputation and introduced one of the most memorable characters in American fiction. Former small-town basketball star Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom struck a responsive chord with readers and critics alike and catapulted Updike into the literary stratosphere.

Updike would revisit Angstrom in 1971, 1981, and 1990, chronicling his hapless protagonist's jittery journey into undistinguished middle age in three melancholy bestsellers: Rabbit Redux, Rabbit Is Rich, and Rabbit at Rest. A concluding novella, "Rabbit Remembered," appears in the 2001 story collection Licks of Love.

Although autobiographical elements appear in the "Rabbit" books, Updike's true literary alter ego is not Harry Angstrom but Harry Bech, a famously unproductive Jewish-American writer who stars in his own story cycle. In between—indeed, far beyond—his successful series, Updike has gone on to produce an astonishingly diverse string of novels. In addition, his criticism and short fiction remain popular staples of distinguished literary publications.

• Updike first became entranced by reading when he was a young boy growing up on an isolated farm in Pennsylvania. Afflicted with psoriasis and a stammer, he escaped from his into mystery novels.

• He decided to attend Harvard University because he was a big fan of the school's humor magazine, The Harvard Lampoon.

• Updike has basically won every major literary prize in America, including the Guggenheim Fellow, the Rosenthal Award, the National Book Award in Fiction, the O. Henry Prize, the American Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Union League Club Abraham Lincoln Award, the National Arts Club Medal of Honor, and the National Medal of the Arts. (Author bio from Barnes & Noble.)

Book Reviews
Taken together, this quartet of novels has given readers a wonderfully vivid portrait of one Harry (Rabbit) Angstrom.... The books have also created a Kodachrome-sharp picture of American life...from the somnolent 50s...into the uncertainties of the 80s. (Refers to all four Rabbit Angstrom novels.)
New York Times

The being that most illuminates the Rabbit quartet is not finally Harry Angstrom himself but the world through which he moves in his slow downward slide, meticulously recorded by one of the most gifted American realists.... The Rabbit novels, for all their grittiness, constitute John Updike's surpassingly eloquent valentine to his country. (Refers to all four Rabbit Angstrom novels.)
Joyce Carol Oates - New York Times Book Review

Brilliant and poignant...By his compassion, clarity of insight and crystal-bright prose, he makes Rabbit's sorrow his and our own.
Washington Post

Precise, graceful, stunning, he is an athlete of words and images. He is also an impeccable observer of thoughts and feelings.
Village Voice

Updike is one of the most exquisite masters of prose style produced by 20th century America. Yet, his novels have been faulted for lacking any sense of action or character development. It appears at times that his ability to spin lovely phrases of delicate beauty and nuance overwhelm his desire to tell a simple, important story in the lives of his characters. Updike's novels raise the question of whether beauty of expression, the lyrical telling of a captured moment of human time is, itself, enough to justify a great work of art. In contrast, his short stories are seen by many as masterful in every respect, both for their prose style that approaches poetic expression and for the stories they convey. Some critics believe that had Updike produced only short stories and poems, his role in American letters would be even more celebrated. But it is Updike's novels that have brought him the greatest fame and attention and which resulted in his appearance on the covers of TIME magazine two times during his career.

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