Thursday, August 14, 2014

Rabbit Run Updike and the sequels

I've tried this before.  I've always thought I ought to read this famous series.  Frank is reading the first one now and so I thought I'd read with him.

I understand what makes the novel off putting for me.  The character is very self focused and yet I feel like Updike wants us to identify.
For me he was the classic spoiled suburban guy with plenty of good things to enjoy but feeling sorry for himself.  So he runs from his marriage and family.
He has a small boy and another child on the way, and he seeming lack of any concern about them just seemed cold.  He does not seem to miss them or appreciate the pleasure of having children.  In fact, he is one of those fellows who is so much a child himself that he has no real parenting energy.
So impulsively he makes a run.
That seems stupid too.  I left a marriage and it took a long, long time to think it through and plan the departure.  He just goes with a few dollars in his pocket and then hooks up with whomever.
He finds a prostitute who is in my feeling one of the least desirable women in literature.  Somehow he charms her.  The classic feeling that the right kind of lover can reach the cold sexual place of the prostitute and be proud of that is just too much macho crap for me.
Currently, he is forming a rather strange relationship with an Episcopal priest who thinks that playing gold with Rabbit is the way to win him back.
It would all be pretty funny were it not so sad.

Characters include an old coach who is degenerate and weak in memory and any sensitivity although he helps Rabbit a bit, giving him a place to rest and introducing him to the prostitute Ruth.

The sexual scenes were certainly a bit different for the age of the novel, but they really turn me off.  It is the opposite of erotic.  I can see why as a college kid in the age where sex was fun and included relationship would be turned off by this sexual relationship.  And I'm getting that she is now pregnant because neither of them acted to preclude that.  I never quite got the idea of how men and women who were screwing daily could be so unconcerned about possible children.

I got the novel on disc and I like the reader.  Then I have a paperback for when I am home, so the novel goes along well enough.

Perhaps I am just too old.  Perhaps I want everything to be like funny 30's movie where the romance happens between people I like and in the end things work out somehow.  Not a very educated way to filter fictional experience, I guess.
In the end I finished all the Rabbit books and felt much more attached to Rabbit and his issues.  I feel I accomplished a like long goal of reading in doing this even if I have no one to discuss the novels with.

The Goldfinch

This book is going through my personal community like a wildfire.  It was in Elizabeth's book club, will be in the men's book club I never visit, and Abigail stayed up late to finish the long work she got so engaged.
I am reading it on Kindle and liking that.  I zip right along.  I miss taking notes and I'll miss recording some of the wonderful language in this book.  It is amazing.  It is rare in this age of sound bites to find an author who takes time for all the details possible.  At times I want it move faster, want it edited down.  At other times it is a fine indulgence.
Plot moves too slowly.  That could be shortened without loss. 
Just now the author skipped ahead 8 years.  Odd for an author who does not seem to be able skip ahead 8 minutes.  I can't figure out why.

I always liked coming of age fiction, even before I taught school.  So it is the right kind of story and character.  I can identify with this character, unlike the spoiled Rabbit in the Updike book.  

Vegas was strangely presented.  It was seen from its worst perspective.  There is some truth to it, but it was not balanced.  Even the poor RTC took a hit from this author.
New York on the other hand is a dreamy place, full of interesting characters like Hobie, a fine furniture repair guy who we admire and who has the most influence on the main character.

His one love relationship is very romantic and classically so because conditions cause him to be unable to pursue her, at least as far as I've gotten.

The subplot of the "stolen" art and what to do about it seems very unrealistic.  It would seem that it would be very easy to get this returned with no questions asked and no criminal repercussions.  It could be returned to an anonymous art lover or to the FBI.  It could be left in a locker and the key sent to the police.  Instead the main character seems stuck with it and afraid of what might happen were he discovered to have it.

I'm also a bit put off that there is so much tragedy.  Everyone seems to die a violent and early death.  This moves toward less than the believable.

E's bookclub split on the book.  Some loved it and some hated it.  Some agreed it should have won the Pulizer and others thought it did not count as literature.  Francine Proze was very critical of the work which in some ways is the sort of story she writes, with adolescents as main characters.  However, I think Proze has an inflated idea of her own expertise.  This is as good a novel as the two I've read by her.  As to what is great literature, that seems a rather pointless  kind of decision.  Great literature is partly determined by its own merit, by how many books are in an author, by the politics of the selling of the book, and by the way the book grabs the audience in mass.  On one level the question of what is great literature cannot be answered unless we wait until the author is as old as Shakespeare is now or at least as old as Twain.

Anyway, it is fine to be reading again on a regular basis.  It does take me out of all the Peter worries and put me in a different place for a while.  That is great.