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Publisher's Summary

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....

©1996 John Updike; (P)2008 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

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

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 3.7 out of 5.0
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    27

Performance

  • 4.2 out of 5.0
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    110
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    45
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    15
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    9

Story

  • 3.9 out of 5.0
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    93
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    26
  • 1 Stars
    16
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  • Overall
  • Peregrine
  • Los Angeles, CA, United States
  • 01-22-09

Great, but gritty and depressing

A great novel in the American tradition of Twain, Hemingway, Salinger. That sounds really lofty, but Updike's character is cranky, funny and perceptive about the stupidities of society in just the same ineffable way as those writers' creations. Be prepared for a somewhat depressing story set in industrial PA in the early 60's.

Good reader, too.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A Thinking Man's Novel

This book centers on Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom, ex high school football star who feels trapped in a mediocre marriage. He refuses to grow up or accept any responsibility and runs away from his pregnant wife in search of some meaning...with disastrous results to all those around him. Rabbit is a selfish coward in all that he does. And yet I (and the other characters in the book) couldn't help liking this amoral anti-hero. However, I'm not sure how much I actually "enjoyed" this novel as it portayed a disturbing picture of man and life and provided no solutions: so beware this is not a happy, "feel good" story. But I did appreciate the excellent writing with its vivid metaphors, explicit descriptions and convincing characters. I became engrossed in the tragic story as it unfolded and found it hard to put down. The narration was perfecly paced and clear. All in all, I think it's well worth listening to and am now wondering whether to wait for the audioversion of the sequel 'Rabbit Redux' or just to read the printed version.

21 of 22 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story
  • Jimmy
  • Powell, OH, United States
  • 04-16-12

A Masterpiece! Updike Delivers Complexity, Simply

I had no idea what to expect with this book, as the title does not give much help--at least at first. John Updike is a masterful writer, and his direct and simple style should not be mistaken for anything but genius. He brought these characters to life in a way that made all of my senses lose come alive! I know that many of the themes in this book, and frankly the series, are/were highly controversial in their day. Yet, Updike is so elegant in his word choice as he shines the light of truth on these characters and their stories that you cannot help but relate. Rabbit is an everyman, and unless you live in a cave or are lying to yourself, one or more of his qualities or points of view will resonate. I think this is a must read for the serious audiophile, and I promise that before you know it you will be finishing with "Rabbit Remembered" a novella which ties up all the lose ends of one of literatures most intriguing characters, and an enduring story about being American. I read this book nearly two years ago, and I still think about it all the time. Do not get in your own way or allow any of the poor reviews by the hermits to dissuade your purchase. Updike is a master, and his stories are real and believable.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Disturbing

This is a disturbing book at many levels. Speaks volumes of the shallowness of the American character developing in the 60's that has grown more prevalent today.

If you aren't troubled by this book, something is wrong with your listening skills. From the spoiling of children to the folly of 'church' to the false character building of sport and the insignificance of achievements, all here, all disturbing.

This is a brilliant work and should be on the same list as Catch-22. Brilliant.

And subtle. It won't club you over the head but you won't feel well at the end.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Grant
  • Aliso Viejo, CA, USA
  • 05-20-09

Stick with it

As a man, I was very much able to identify with many of the main characters attributes and flaws. Updike does a magnificant job of turning a character who you should hate for his acts into one who you cannot help but love! Stick with this book as it starts a bit slow, but draws you in through its magnetic main character.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Robert
  • Carmichael, CA, USA
  • 08-27-09

Reality can be depressing...

I never read the "Rabbit" series in my youth and am now trying to catch up. I am a 56 year old male whose time frame is just a few years after the setting of this book. I find Updike's perspective to be fairly advanced for it's time, but a bit disturbing today (politically incorrect now). For this reason, I think that it acts as a time capsule, a view into the male psyche of that era for those who didn't live through it. Much classic literature fulfills this role, but I believe that older Americans are still too close to this era to properly convey the atmosphere to today's youth. This series may accomplish that, in the manner of Catcher In the Rye. That said, this is not for "the depressed" as was stated by another reviewer.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Mary
  • Torrington, CT, USA
  • 04-11-09

Angstrom Angst

Updike's Rabbit Run is still a hit for me. The book captures the angst in every day life's struggles and the feeling of being trapped in one's role in life back in the 1960's. Wonderful writing.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Lawrence
  • Monroeville, PA, United States
  • 01-17-10

Great book, great performance

Arthur Morey does a first rate job. The producer should get much of the credit since Morey has the perfect voice for the Rabbit novels. I listened to this 3 times and it got better each time. Well worth your money.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Small Town, Middle Class Male: Fight or Flight


Going Down the Cunicular Hole

Harry 'Rabbit' Angstrom, 26, Mt. Judge, PA, married with a two-year-old son, sells Magipeelers for a living. Not quite what he expected in his high school glory days as a basketball star. His wife Janice is expecting another child any day now as she quenches her alcoholism beginning close to 5 each afternoon.

After a typical argument with Janice one night, Rabbit snaps, experiencing an existential crisis, feeling trapped by the loveless and lifeless monogamy imposed upon him by the societal institution of marriage, and choked in a meaningless job. So, he runs, to 'escape' his personal frustrations and make sense of his life--his 'fight or flight' quest for meaning.

This novel follows three months of Rabbit's life in 1959, from the night he runs, to his visit to his high school basketball coach, an affair with Ruth (who feels 'right' in a sexual way as long as she doesn't wear a 'flying saucer'), and the birth of his daughter.

Updike chose the name Angstrom (meaning 'stream of angst') which was inspired from reading Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard. In creating the novel (from which flowed three sequels), Updike thought of Kerouac's On the Road, in imagining what might happen if a small-town, middle-class WASP family man hit the road, and who would be hurt.

For his leading man, he chose a former high school basketball star because he was intrigued by the number of men he saw who had peaked in high school with athletics and were thereafter stuck in a downward spiral.

Rabbit is an immature, insecure male obsessed with sex, as an animalistic act, looking at potential partners for their sexual fit. He often refers to his being uncircumcised (his 'hooded cobra'), uncommon in the U.S., and insists one night that his mistress fellate him.

I didn't realize it, but Updike was groundbreaking in writing graphically about sex in well-regarded literature. Knopf required Updike to delete the sexually explicit passages prior to the 1960 publication, parts that he restored for Penguin's 1963 edition.

Updike said, 'About sex in general, by all means let's have it in fiction, as detailed as needs be, but real, real in its social and psychological connections. Let's take coitus out of the closet and off the altar and put it on the continuum of human behavior.'

It would be hard to imagine the novel not having sexually explicit passages when it follows three months in the life of a guy whose very identity as a man and human is tied to sex and thoughts of sex and thoughts of things in life as they relate to sex.

This is especially so with Updike's use of the present tense, a brilliant choice. Of employing the present tense, Updike observed:

'In Rabbit, Run, I liked writing in the present tense. You can move between minds, between thoughts and objects and events with a curious ease not available to the past tense. I don't know if it is clear to the reader as it is to the person writing, but there are kinds of poetry, kinds of music you can strike off in the present tense.'

Until reading this, I didn't realize the many things a writer can do with the present tense. It has a sense of immediacy and a flow that involves one in a story that seems more realistic.


1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
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A priceless, ruthless portrait of youth

Rabbit, Run is not an uplifting novel, and despite all the talk of Christ and spirituality, it is not terribly enlightening, either. What John Updike gives us, however, is a priceless, ruthless portrait of youth- complete with its vitality, vigor, and arrogance. By design, Harry Angstrom isn't a likable character; he hurts nearly everyone who loves him as he tries to sort out his life. Or maybe you do like him, despite yourself, and become implicated in his domestic tragedy.
As always, Updike's prose is note-perfect. When he deals with sexuality, he does so with such objective remoteness that one feels like the viewer of a 1960s foreign film, where titillation is chilled by artistry.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful