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Rabbit at Rest
by John Updike

It's 1989, and Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom feels anything but restful. In fact he's frozen, incapacitated by his fear of death--and in the final year of the Reagan era, he's right to be afraid. His 55-year-old body, swollen with beer and munchies and racked with chest pains, wears its bulk "like a set of blankets the decades have brought one by one." He suspects that his son Nelson, who's recently taken over the family car dealership, is embezzling money to support a cocaine habit.

Indeed, from Rabbit's vantage point--which alternates between a winter condo in Florida and the ancestral digs in Pennsylvania, not to mention a detour to an intensive care unit--decay is overtaking the entire world. The budget deficit is destroying America, his accountant is dying of AIDS, and a terrorist bomb has just destroyed Pan Am Flight 103 above Lockerbie, Scotland. This last incident, with its rapid transit from life to death, hits Rabbit particularly hard.



Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (1 of 12), Read 12 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 08:50 AM Standing amid the tan, excited post-Christmas crowd at the Southwest Florida Regional Airport, Rabbit Angstrom has a funny sudden feeling that what he has come to meet, what's floating in unseen about to land, is not his son Nelson and daughter-in-law Pru and their two children but something more ominous and intimately his: his own death, shaped vaguely like an airplane. Well, not much doubt about where we're going here, right from the opening sentence. 2001, will he be alive? When we have to readjust our mental picture of Rabbit, the answer to that question seems self-evident: . . . Harry remorsefully feels the bulk, two hundred thirty pounds the kindest scales say, that has enwrapped him at the age of fifty-five like a set of blankets the decades have brought one by one. I really don't like it that Rabbit is so young. Steve
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (2 of 12), Read 14 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 08:57 AM That bothered me, too, that he is so young. It makes me wonder why Updike did not want to continue Harry's life, I would have loved to experienced Harry as a crotchety old man, lusting after young women... poking Nelson with his cane. Updike prepares us with slight aches in the chest, shortness of breath..but I'm not prepared to lose Harry yet. Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (3 of 12), Read 14 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 11:04 AM I'm well into this one now. Harry's coming off more likeable in many ways. Still snappy with the son, still pretty obtuse. I mean, keeerist, it's 1989 and he's having chest pains and he's unaware of the health implications of what he's been eating? That scene out on the boat with Judy is something else. He rose to the occasion. Ruth "Consider my traveling expenses: Poetry---all of it---is a trip into the unknown." Vladimir Mayakovsky
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (4 of 12), Read 13 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 12:29 PM Ruth, you have passed me..i am just coming up on the part where they are going to rent the Sunfish...Saturdays are hard for me to sit and just read, but today is Sunday and the kids have gone to swim.. at that country club that brings me sooooo much shame... Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (5 of 12), Read 9 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 12:40 PM I like Pru. She watches what Rabbit eats. She is concerned about him. "She would take care of me." Harry thinks. I think so, too. I really like this Pru. Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (6 of 12), Read 12 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 12:44 PM Pru seems to be the only one around with her head screwed on. But then, she married Nelson, which would seem a serious lapse in good judgment. This is the kind of observation that keeps me in thrall to Updike: “…flocks of flamingos…sleep while standing up, like big feathery lollypops, each body a ball, the idle leg and the neck and head somehow knitted in…’Look how they drink,’ Harry tells his grandchildren…Their bills are scoops that work upside down.’ And they stand marveling, the four human beings, as if the space between farflung planets has been abolished, so different do these living things loom from themselves. The earth is many planets, that intersect only at moments. Even among themselves, slices of difference interpose, speaking the sam language though they do, and lacking feathers, and all drinking right side up.” I have a further comment on the writing, but I want to wait until after the Sunfish episode. Let me know when you get there, Beejola. Ruth "Consider my traveling expenses: Poetry---all of it---is a trip into the unknown." Vladimir Mayakovsky
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (7 of 12), Read 12 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 12:49 PM I should be getting there within the hour..I will let you know... (Beejola? Spot? I seem to answer to a lot of names here!) Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (8 of 12), Read 13 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 12:52 PM In that passage I just quoted, look how seamlessly he moves from a whimsical description "feathery lollypops," and "the idle leg and the neck and head somehow knitted in," to Harry with the grandchildren, to a grand observation on the human condition. That grand observation, perspicacious as it is, would have seemed pompous and abstract if he hadn't tied it in to the concrete image (the flamingos)and an actual moment (Harry and the grandchildren) That's writing. Ruth "Consider my traveling expenses: Poetry---all of it---is a trip into the unknown." Vladimir Mayakovsky
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (9 of 12), Read 11 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 01:00 PM That passage struck me, too, Ruth..but I never would have realized just how well it does work, and why. thanks for pointing it out, Ruthola. Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (10 of 12), Read 10 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 01:28 PM Oh oh..I suspect Nelson might be into the ole cocaine... Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (11 of 12), Read 9 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 01:36 PM Oh ho. Ruth "Consider my traveling expenses: Poetry---all of it---is a trip into the unknown." Vladimir Mayakovsky
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (12 of 12), Read 3 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 02:13 PM okay, Ruth! I finished the Sunfish episode... Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (13 of 45), Read 18 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 02:48 PM I just finished the Sunfish episode, too. What ever came over Rabbit to think of this after the episode with Cindy Murkett? The only explanation is sheer desperation to amuse his granddaughter. To impress her. She is the perfect child on one hand (a grandchild stereotype), and on the other hand another woman. (He ponders how some man will use her tongue someday.) I mentioned earlier how one's fondness for Harry grows. The Harry in this book is the one I really love: "Can't breathe too well. For some reason. Let me rest a minute. And think. We don't want to. Tip this ****er over again." Speech like this with a nine-year-old granddaughter is not acceptable, according to received wisdom, and even when under pressure, I myself refrain using vernacular such as this around my nine-year-old granddaughter unless there are no other adults around. But the point of this Sunfish episode for me is Harry's heroism. There's no other way to characterize it. For the first time since his basketball days, Harry is purely heroic in the face of this heart attack in these circumstances. The heroism is only enhanced with his closing line, "It must have been the birdfood I ate." Trying a joke to keep his granddaughter from being too alarmed. Jesus, you've got to love the guy here! Steve
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (14 of 45), Read 18 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 02:52 PM Agree, Steve, old Harry really came through on this one. Here's the comment I was holding back. Okay. So he had the heart attack. We all knew he was gonna have one. But don't you think Updike was more than a tad heavy-handed on his foreshadowing? If he told me one more time about Harry's weight, his chest pains, his gobbling doughnuts and peanuts and sausage, I was gonna kick him in his writerly shins and shout, "Enough, already. We get it. We get it!" Ruth "Consider my traveling expenses: Poetry---all of it---is a trip into the unknown." Vladimir Mayakovsky
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (15 of 45), Read 18 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 02:53 PM I do agree there, Ruthie. Yes, maybe a little heavy handed. Not giving his readers enough credit. I can live with that though. Steve
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (16 of 45), Read 17 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 02:53 PM Oh, I loved that line about the birdfood. God love him. Another hint we are getting that Harry isn't long for this world..His speech pattern is breaking up the way his mother's did before her death. Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (17 of 45), Read 18 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 02:55 PM Actually, Beej, I think this is simply the speech pattern of somebody completely out of breath. Or are you talking about more than the Sunfish episode? If so, that flew by me. Regardless of his conduct through his life, one can't help but believe that this little girl at least will be better off rather than worse off for her recollection of him when she is an adult. Steve
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (18 of 45), Read 19 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 02:56 PM Ruth, perhaps it wasn't us Updike was trying to warn..Perhaps its just another example of showing how Harry tends to bury his head in the sand when things get heavy. If Harry had done something about that first bad signal, then it wouldn't have been in character. Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (19 of 45), Read 18 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 02:58 PM Steve, no thats all I was talking about...but it just reminded me so much of his mom. Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (20 of 45), Read 22 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 03:00 PM No, it would not have been in character, Beej, but I think it's more to do with this again: "Whenever somebody tells me to do something my instinct's always to do the opposite. It's got me into a lot of trouble, but I've had a lot of fun. . . ." But also, notice all the little references that indicate that Harry is starting regard death as a relief. Steve
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (21 of 45), Read 19 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 03:00 PM But I think there was a time a little earlier in the book when he was having chest pains and had this same out of breath speech pattern.. Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (22 of 45), Read 22 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 03:01 PM Do you think he is subconsciously flirting with death? Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (23 of 45), Read 29 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 03:02 PM That's kinda what I just said. Steve
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (24 of 45), Read 38 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 03:09 PM Okay, but why? Do you really think just to do the opposite of what's expected, he would court death? Where's the fun in that? Or is it similar to a competition... sort of like basketball? I guess I just don't understand that. ...I'm sorry. Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (25 of 45), Read 17 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 04:27 PM Ruth, After witnessing Rabbit's relationship with Judy, don't you feel a little bit in love with him? There is something about watching a big man love a little child that is sexier than almost anything else in the world, I think. If I didn't love Harry before this, I sure would after reading about him and Judy. I dread his death like there's no tomorrow. And I'm not kidding. The idea of his upcoming death brings tears to my eyes. Dale and Steve, you better be here for me. Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (26 of 45), Read 24 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 04:30 PM Speaking of Dale, Where are you? I miss you! If you're not here because you've been working, well, I think you need to re-evaluate your priorities! This is Updike, after all! :-) Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (27 of 45), Read 19 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dale Short (dshort@bham.rr.com) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 06:12 PM Beej: Never fear! I'm right here. I swung by the library today and had double good fortune...not only did they have my reserve copy of RABBIT AT REST, but I also scored LICKS OF LOVE while there. My imagination had prepared me for some lurid abstraction of a cover illustration on the latter, so I was taken aback when it featured a simple line drawing of a banjo. Licks? Get it? Arrr. You're right, I've been taking this work deadline stuff way too seriously. After all, this IS Updike we're talking about...{G} >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (28 of 45), Read 17 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 07:02 PM Leif went to the library today, and while he was there he nabbed Licks for me. Mine doesn't even have a banjo. Just plain, dull stripes. Like all the rest of the Rabbits. I'm really plowing through this one. Can't put it down. Steve, you're right, this is one great soap opera. Will Nelson get off the stuff? Will he bring Springer Motors to his knees? What's going to happen to poor little Judy? Is Roy another Nelson-in-waiting? Ruth "Consider my traveling expenses: Poetry---all of it---is a trip into the unknown." Vladimir Mayakovsky
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (29 of 45), Read 20 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 07:16 PM Dale! There you are!!!! I haven't gotten a copy of 'Licks of Love' yet..I'll probably pick it up tomorrow, but I've been trying to avoid it as long as possible. It truly will be good-bye to Rabbit and I don't want to say good-bye to Rabbit. Ruth, I wondered myself if Roy is but another Nelson..What's the old adage parents always say? "Someday you'll have a child just like you..." And perhaps Nelson will have a child just like Nelson. The signs are sure pointing in that direction! Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (30 of 45), Read 20 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 07:47 PM Just when I start to like Janice she pulls some selfish thing! Boy, this woman irritates me. She is at the hospital visiting Harry in intensive care. Nelson and family are about to fly back to Brewer. Janice says: "Harry, I'll drop by on my way back when I've put them on the plane. But there's an origami demonstration tonight at the Village I don't want to miss." Seems the more things change, the more they stay the same... Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (31 of 45), Read 22 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 08:06 PM That origami thing was a cheap shot, I think. Just like all the heart attack warnings. Updike could have gotten his point over more subtly. Nevertheless I am glued to this book. Ruth "Consider my traveling expenses: Poetry---all of it---is a trip into the unknown." Vladimir Mayakovsky
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (32 of 45), Read 21 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 08:16 PM This selfishness in Janice doesn't seem to bother Harry in the least. He accepts it now. "His wife is, it occurs to Harry, a channel that can't be switched. The same slightly too-high forehead, the same dumb stubborn slot of a mouth, day after day, same time, same station." Harry should have stuck with Ruth. Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (33 of 45), Read 22 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dale Short (dshort@bham.rr.com) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 08:41 PM Beej, Ruth, Steve & All: Have mercy... "His wife is, it occurs to Harry, a channel that can't be switched." As obvious as it seems on the surface, that's a line that most any fictioneer would trade his cojones for (or whatever is the female fictioneer's equivalent; somehow "uterus" seems a problematic possession in the whole scheme of things), at any stage of the game. Updike's insights, in this book alone, give him permanent writer-deity status for me. Tonight, RABBIT AT REST. Tomorrow, LICKS OF LOVE. Life is good. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (34 of 45), Read 27 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Sunday, June 03, 2001 09:07 PM "Brewer, too, that torpid hive, speaks to him of himself, of his past grown awesomely deep." I sure do like the way this man writes. Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (35 of 45), Read 12 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 12:16 AM There's hope for Janice yet. Hallelujah. Ruth "Consider my traveling expenses: Poetry---all of it---is a trip into the unknown." Vladimir Mayakovsky
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (36 of 45), Read 17 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Theresa Simpson (theresa.a.simpson@gte.net) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 12:51 AM Ovaries, Dale, ovaries. Didn't you take biology in high school? Theresa, wondering why no one else has found it odd that Rabbit, who is surely the typical American middle-class straight WASP male if there ever was one, has nicknamed his only son Nellie, of all things.
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (37 of 45), Read 13 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 12:58 AM I noticed that, too, Theresa, and thought it odd. Ruth "Consider my traveling expenses: Poetry---all of it---is a trip into the unknown." Vladimir Mayakovsky
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (38 of 45), Read 13 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 06:58 AM I think y'all are way ahead of me. I just got through the part where Rabbit visits Thelma. Boy, that tugged at my heart. Her love for him is just sooo absolute. I wonder, if she hadn't been so sick, if she didn't have lupus, would Harry have eventually fallen in love with her? His happiness is everything to her. All she wants is Harry to be happy. He tells her: "The reason I never left Janice and never can," he confesses, suddenly near tears, maudlin as she said, "is without her, I'm shit..." Then he goes on and says to Thelma: "Without you, I don't have a life." You know, I may be naive and very gullible, but I think maybe Harry does love Thelma. Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (39 of 45), Read 14 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 07:02 AM Oh, yes..Ruth. I keep going back to the origami business, and you're right. It really was a cheap shot on Updike's part. What wife would even think of an origami class when her husband is in intensive care after a massive heart attack? Why do you think Updike sneaked that little hard nugget in there? Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (40 of 45), Read 13 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dale Short (dshort@bham.rr.com) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 07:35 AM Thanks, Theresa. Anatomy was never my strong suit.{G} I hadn't noticed the incongruousness of "Nellie" until now, either. In retrospect, it looks like a strange mixture of taunting and fondness. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (41 of 45), Read 15 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dale Short (dshort@bham.rr.com) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 07:42 AM Beej: Yep, I have no doubt that Harry (insomuch as possible for Harry, at least) loved Thelma. I can see his point about Janice, though. If his life has screwed up so badly with a woman as controlling as Janice, how much worse would it be if he exercised free will all the time, and not just on impulse? I know in reality it's not necessarily an either/or, but I don't believe Rabbit could picture it any other way. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (42 of 45), Read 18 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 07:44 AM Janice also had Harry's financial 'cojones' in her back pocket. But you're right, Dale! Janice did provide a sort of an emotional safety net, too. I didn't think of that. Harry does function on a 'safer' level when on Janet's leash. So he's tethered to Janice in a few ways, isn't he? And yet, when he's with Thelma, he eats the forbidden Macadamia nuts. Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (43 of 45), Read 11 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 07:57 AM Dale, do you really think Harry screwed up his life that badly? Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (44 of 45), Read 12 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dale Short (dshort@bham.rr.com) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 08:20 AM Beej: No, but I think Harry felt he'd screwed up that badly. Realistically, though, the fact that he and Janice are alive and standing at age 55 after all the ordeals they'd been through is a hell of an achievement, I'd say. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (45 of 45), Read 2 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 09:40 AM Theresa writes that Rabbit is "the typical American middle-class straight WASP male...." Is that true? Is Updike creating a mid-to late-twentieth century 'everyman' with these books? Dick In The 21st Century
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (46 of 71), Read 50 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dale Short (dshort@bham.rr.com) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 10:29 AM Dick: I would argue that Rabbit is not Everyman, but Everyman's shadow side. Inner child. Whatever. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (47 of 71), Read 50 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 10:33 AM Theresa, that's an interesting observation that Dick picked up on. I certainly wouldn't argue against it, but I would like to think about it more. Also, I think the nickname "Nellie" is more taunt than it is an expression of fondness. I could be wrong there, but I don't think so. It is just another reason I have slowly come around to Ruth's view that Rabbit is cruel to him at times. One thing I don't have to think about though. Rabbit should give up on the idea of sailing. Steve
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (48 of 71), Read 54 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 10:36 AM Don't want to side-track the discussion; the universality of the Rabbit persona can be discussed after you all have finished reading; personally, though I think he's as sui generis as Ignatius Reilly, just a bit better socialized. Dick In The 21st Century
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (49 of 71), Read 55 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dale Short (dshort@bham.rr.com) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 10:40 AM Dick & All: Rabbit as Everyman reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw awhile back. It said, I finally got in touch with my inner child... And put the little SOB up for adoption. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (50 of 71), Read 55 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 11:07 AM The origami thing, Beej? I think he plopped it in there to show a) Janice's insensitiveness and focus on herself and b) her growing independence. Seems to me it was perfectly in keeping with the story development to have her have some reason to not come back that evening. But origami? Give me a break. Updike could have made it something not quite so ridiculous, and it would have been a little more believeable. Why do you think we're discussing this minutia? Because it sticks out like a sore thumb. Ruth "Consider my traveling expenses: Poetry---all of it---is a trip into the unknown." Vladimir Mayakovsky
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (51 of 71), Read 53 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 11:12 AM I've been mulling on that comment that Rabbit has made a couple of times---about how when people tell him to do something, he always wants to do the opposite. I'm not sure he's had an insight into his character at all. I haven't noticed a particularly rebellious streak in our man. To the contrary, he seems to float along with whatever comes his way. Yeah, he ignored all those heart attack warning signs, but I don't think it was out of perversity, but out of the sublime belief that it wasn't gonna happen to him. There's a bit of the ostrich in our friend. Ruth "Consider my traveling expenses: Poetry---all of it---is a trip into the unknown." Vladimir Mayakovsky
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (52 of 71), Read 52 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 11:14 AM There's no question, Ruthie, that the origami thing, heavy handed though it may be, does indicate Janice's growing independence. Great observation. Steve
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (53 of 71), Read 54 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 11:19 AM Not that she was ever that dependent. I just mean that she is developing this entirely different life separate from Rabbit. Steve
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (54 of 71), Read 51 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 11:25 AM Right, Steve. Up to now she's just kind of drifted along within the marriage, killing time, not even bothering to express herself through housewifery. Ruth "Consider my traveling expenses: Poetry---all of it---is a trip into the unknown." Vladimir Mayakovsky
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (55 of 71), Read 60 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 11:54 AM I would just observe that, to me, the origami exemplifies a recurring theme in these books and as such is intended to stick out like a sore thumb: the characters' blank incomprehension about the differences between the trivial and the profoundly important aspects of life. I think Dale nailed it, albeit in a slightly different context, a few posts back were he talked about Rabbit's inner child essentially being Rabbit. These people are all inner child in many, many respects. Don't have my Rabbit Remembered handy, but there's a paragraph right at the beginning where Rabbit is mentally brushing off some chest-pains as inconsequential, and he thinks to himself, to the effect, "When he was a child, adults would always reassure him that some pain or other was nothing and would soon be alright. Now that he was an adult, he had to do this for himself." Tying your shoes, brushing your teeth and learning how to pretend everything is alright -- the three fundamental lessons every child must learn before advancing to full adulthood. Dick In The 21st Century
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (56 of 71), Read 44 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 01:13 PM I've been doing a rare thing...keeping my mouth shut and just listening. And I think Dick is right. the origami was intended to stick out like a sore thumb. So much of what Updike writes seems to be exaggerated; almost like one of the cartoons in the New Yorker. Perhaps he's just so good at it, we don't always recognise it as such. Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (57 of 71), Read 38 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dale Short (dshort@bham.rr.com) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 01:25 PM Beej says, So much of what Updike writes seems to be exaggerated; almost like one of the cartoons in the New Yorker. Perhaps he's just so good at it, we don't always recognise it as such. Wow. I think you're onto something, there. Once when Flannery O'Connor was asked to respond to critics who said her work was "grotesque and exaggerated," she replied, "When one writes for the blind, one must write large." And if our mainstream culture fit that description in the 1950s, I'd imagine that it became increasingly the case in each of Rabbit's decades. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (58 of 71), Read 39 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 01:36 PM "When one writes for the blind, one must write large." You know Dale, as I read all that was being said about Harry as the typical American middle-class straight WASP male, all I could think was, "Yeah? So what? What's wrong with that?" and then it hit me that what was wrong with it was that Updike had to exaggerate it, because if it was too much on the mark we would, in mere recognition and acceptance, turn a blind eye to it. So maybe you're right with that quote.. he just wrote large. Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (59 of 71), Read 37 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 01:41 PM (Um, I don't know if any of y'all caught the error I made with copying and pasting, but if you did, please know I am well aware of the laugh I gave you before I deleted it, and i am pleased to have done this for you! hahahahahahhaahha Oh, and if nobody caught it, just ask and I will include it in my next post.) Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (60 of 71), Read 40 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 01:42 PM Oh, what the heck,,,here it is again.. Beej the typical American middle-class straight WASP male
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (61 of 71), Read 34 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dale Short (dshort@bham.rr.com) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 01:49 PM Beej: If you're a straight WASP male, my compliments on your great female impersonation.{G} You know, all these years I've been reading Updike, and I'm just now grasping what a monumental balancing act he had to pull off in the RABBIT series between the realistic and the exaggerated. Now, I'm thinking that those reams of beautiful descriptive phrases and insights--some of which Ruth has pointed out, and which make us say, "Wow! I've never heard it put so well before; that's exactly the way things are..."--are so rich because they have to serve as ballast to the over-the-top aspects that are necessary to make that delicate balance work. Which gives me even more respect for Updike's talent, if that's possible. Reckon John's ears are burning? >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (62 of 71), Read 38 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 01:53 PM Why, Dale, Thank you! You made my day. I think Updike is purely and simply a genius at what he does...in the strictest definition of the word. A genuine genius. Did not Rabbit At Rest win a Pulitzer prize? Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (63 of 71), Read 42 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dale Short (dshort@bham.rr.com) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 02:07 PM Beej: Yes, RABBIT AT REST was Updike's second Pulitzer, in 1991. RABBIT IS RICH won in 1982. Which reminds me, the guy who won the 1996 Pulitzer for fiction (Richard Ford, INDEPENDENCE DAY) is the only current writer I know of who's in Updike's league when it comes to the dark underside of American domestic life. Hope all you Updike fans will give him a try, if you haven't. I think Ford's story collection ROCK SPRINGS is a powerful piece of work, as well. The title story is a good introduction to his work. ROCK SPRINGS also contains "Communist," which we read recently in ART OF THE TALE on the "Short Story" thread. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (64 of 71), Read 39 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 02:34 PM I surely will give him a try, if you recommend him! I am reading this book slowly. I'm trying to prolong Harry's life. (Its the least I can do, for all he's done for me..) Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (65 of 71), Read 39 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dale Short (dshort@bham.rr.com) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 02:43 PM I know what you mean, Beej. I'm going very slow, myself. Besides, this is our guy's finest hour, so it merits savoring. (Although, I'm curious to get into RABBIT REMEMBERED and find out about the Annabelle stuff, too...) >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (66 of 71), Read 36 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 03:56 PM We are each of us like our little blue planet, hung in black space, upheld by nothing but our mutual reassurances, our loving lies. *** And at Thelma's funeral, (the minister) talks of Thelma as a model housewife, mother, churchgoer, sufferer. The description fits no one, it is a dress with no one in it. Ruth "Consider my traveling expenses: Poetry---all of it---is a trip into the unknown." Vladimir Mayakovsky
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (67 of 71), Read 31 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 04:10 PM Y'all are way ahead of me.. I think I need to do less jibber jabbering on here and more reading. This discussion is as addictive as the books! (But I'm on a roll now with the book and will catch up soon.) Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (68 of 71), Read 16 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 08:16 PM I read a line in here that sort of stopped me in my tracks. Pru sniffs and says, "I hate my life." she seems to him to be unnaturally still, like a rabbit in oncoming headlights." I read that and thought of some of the things that happened to Harry in his life, and that frightened look a small animal gets when it senses a threat to its well being and doesn't quite know in which direction it should run for safety. It freezes. Just like our Rabbit. Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (69 of 71), Read 10 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 09:47 PM "Our" Rabbit. Yes, he is. However, let's not got too sentimental about him, Beej. Some lines that stopped me in my tracks from Rabbit is Rich: Women, once sex gets out in the open, they become monsters. You're a creep if you **** them and a creep if you don't. And this one regarding Janice: She does know something. All cunts know something. That last is a refrain that recurs three times at least in that book. My point is simply that while our fondness for Rabbit grows, let us not forget his faults. There may be a teeny, tiny kernel of truth in those statements, but Rabbit's manner of approaching those truths is pretty revealing of his character. We need to be realistic about him. Steve
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (70 of 71), Read 9 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 09:51 PM So maybe the question is whether Rabbit develops into a better person as he gets older. Based upon the great Sunfish episode with his granddaughter, I would say yes. However, based upon his reminiscence with Ronnie at Thelma's funeral, I would say no. Steve
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (71 of 71), Read 10 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Monday, June 04, 2001 10:01 PM I think he's always been a good person, but I also think he's 'coming out of his skin' a bit more as he ages. Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (72 of 83), Read 38 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Tuesday, June 05, 2001 01:21 AM Yes, just when our Rabbit outdoes himself on the Sunfish, and seems to have a teeny tiny snip of an epiphany marching that parade, he goes and blows it at Thelma's funeral. Ronnie is a jerk, no doubt about that,first class A #1. But when he goes all teary at Thelma's funeral about how Harry never appreciated Thelma: "Ronnie, (Harry) whispers, "I did appreciate her. She was a terrific lay." We have 3 choices: 1) We believe Rabbit is sincere, and that in his mind this is the only way to truly appreciate a woman, which is at least partially true, 2) He's needling Ronnie after pulling his punches all these years, but is Rabbit really this quick in his thinking? or 3) both of the above. Whaddya think? Ruth "Consider my traveling expenses: Poetry---all of it---is a trip into the unknown." Vladimir Mayakovsky
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (73 of 83), Read 36 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Tuesday, June 05, 2001 07:07 AM I think its both. And I think it was a payback for Ronnie having slept with Ruth during that trip to Atlantic City years before. Another possible reason might have been because he felt Thelma had betrayed him. That bothers him so much his throat aches. Updike outdid himself with this funeral scene....putting that minister in a brown suit is just another of those little touches that makes this all seem so real and so human. Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (74 of 83), Read 32 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Tuesday, June 05, 2001 07:52 AM Wasn't that funeral scene something, Ruthie? I'll never forget the first time I read it. I didn't know whether to laugh, cry, or just shake my head. For my money I think it is both. I really do think there is some sincerity in this remark. The remark is a great tribute to a woman in Rabbit's mind. But the beauty of it is that it serves the double purpose of needling Ronnie. Beej, are you saying that the remark might be an expression of bitterness toward Thelma herself? In other words, that there might be a third (fourth?) possibility? I wish we could have seen Rabbit's face and heard his inflection when he said this. Steve
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (75 of 83), Read 34 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Tuesday, June 05, 2001 08:06 AM Well, it says... Rabbit's own throat aches, thinking of Thelma and Ronnie at the last, her betraying her lover when her body had no more love left in it. and its then Rabbit says.. "I did appreciate her. I did. She was a fantastic lay." He felt betrayed. But I think there's a lot to that betrayal. Not just that she told Ronnie of their affair but also because the one thing Thelma gave Rabbit above anything else was devotion and an unselfish love and as her body was dying so was that devotion. Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (76 of 83), Read 36 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Tuesday, June 05, 2001 08:10 AM Fascinating, Beej. Even in the context that you point out, it really never occurred to me that Rabbit might be expressing any bitterness toward Thelma herself. I don't know. Maybe you're right. In any event, I think that line ought to rank right up there in American literature with "Frankly, Scarlett, I don't give a damn!" Steve
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (77 of 83), Read 31 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Tuesday, June 05, 2001 08:15 AM this line was a real trip too: People he once loved slide from him but Ronnie is always there, like the smelly underside of his own body.. and then, immediately after that: Ronnie is playing the grieving widower to a T. There's tons of garbage going on here between these two enemies, I think. And it was no accident Ronnie brought this all up at the funeral. He was hitting Rabbit below the belt. So Rabbit hit him back. Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (78 of 83), Read 32 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Tuesday, June 05, 2001 08:20 AM And there's another interesting question. Ronnie is always there. Why is that? Why do they continually socialize? These two guys detest each other. The only theory I can suggest is that they need each other in some way. Steve
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (79 of 83), Read 36 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dale Short (dshort@bham.rr.com) Date: Tuesday, June 05, 2001 08:24 AM Steve & All: This Harry/Thelma/Ronnie/Janice thing is an intensely complicated deal, isn't it? It resonates so many different ways. Speaking of which, when I picked up LICKS OF LOVE at the library I sneaked a peek at the first line of "Rabbit Remembered" and had to laugh out loud right there among the shelves at Janice's new married name. Gosh, wouldn't you know it? >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (80 of 83), Read 33 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Tuesday, June 05, 2001 08:34 AM Janice does a whole lot of "snuffling" at this funeral, but wouldn't you love to know what she's really thinking? Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (81 of 83), Read 31 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Tuesday, June 05, 2001 08:56 AM Okay, I found the line I was looking for. This is immediately after that showdown at the funeral: "Rabbit, remembering how Ronnie once screwed Ruth a whole weekend in Atlantic City and then bragged to him about it, can't feel sorry for him at all" I think that's the bottom line, right there. Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (82 of 83), Read 36 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Tuesday, June 05, 2001 09:24 AM No question about it, Beej. They detest each other, but not because of any one particular thing. It's a more richly textured hatred than that. They have stopped socializing in this book, but still, Ronnie is always there some way. Yeah, Dale. The widow Janice's new married name. Wouldn't you know it? Steve
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (83 of 83), Read 31 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dale Short (dshort@bham.rr.com) Date: Tuesday, June 05, 2001 09:38 AM "A richly textured hatred." Yes, absolutely. I think everybody needs a nemesis, and Rabbit and Ronnie fill this role for each other superbly. Being around somebody you hate is kind of energizing, in a weird way. Rabbit and Ronnie just keep picking away at one another like scabs, out of habit. The devil you know, etc. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (85 of 91), Read 19 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Tuesday, June 05, 2001 08:26 PM I'm in the Toyota with Rabbit on his final journey. This is the finest bit of writing I've read in a long, long time. Ruth "Consider my traveling expenses: Poetry---all of it---is a trip into the unknown." Vladimir Mayakovsky
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (86 of 91), Read 22 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Tuesday, June 05, 2001 09:03 PM Me too, Ruth..this has been an incredible journey, hasn't it? Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (87 of 91), Read 12 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Wednesday, June 06, 2001 12:00 AM I just finished. A fitting end. Have you got there yet, Beej? Ruth "Consider my traveling expenses: Poetry---all of it---is a trip into the unknown." Vladimir Mayakovsky
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (88 of 91), Read 13 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Wednesday, June 06, 2001 06:56 AM I just now finished it and it tore me apart. But I knew it would do this. Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (89 of 91), Read 9 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Wednesday, June 06, 2001 07:07 AM I handled it fine until the doctor told Janice that Harry was too young to retire. As he lay dying, he was still too young to retire. Why did Updike do this? Why didn't he take Harry through a long and enjoyable old age? Updike did everything right in these books up to the very last word. Enough. I disagree. Beej
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (90 of 91), Read 8 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Wednesday, June 06, 2001 08:36 AM Yes, Beej, but I wonder what Harry would say to this. I don't think he would disagree. Harry didn't look too fondly on old age. Janice is blooming in her old age. Absolutely blooming. Harry was made to be young. Think about it. Can you imagine an old Harry? And if you can, isn't it a pretty pathetic picture? Moreover, throughout this book and the last one, Harry ponders the crowded planet and people trying to hang on. Several times he concludes that leaving this life is the gracious thing to do. Make some space for others. Y'all are ahead of me. I am at the beginning of the last part. Just finished reading about his daughter-in-law throwing aside her robe, pulling her nightie up over her head, and hopping into bed with him. As twisted as this all sounds in the abstract, I thought it was a beautifully rendered scene. A vigorous young woman giving Harry physical love one last time. I really can't picture Harry in some happy dotage not being able to do this anymore. So there, Beej. Get a grip! Steve
Topic: Rabbit at Rest: John Updike (91 of 91), Read 6 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Wednesday, June 06, 2001 08:59 AM Another couple of thoughts on this, if you will permit. It appears to me that throughout this book, at least, Harry has been preparing himself for death. Even if you don't agree on that, at a minimum you must see that Harry is not one who prizes life in old age so much that he will fight to get there. His refusal of the open heart surgery is the very best example of this. Not everyone thinks that old age, particularly a very infirm old age, is worth any price, any struggle. Harry is better off wherever he is even if that is nothingness, and there's no doubt whatsoever in my mind that he would agree if we could ask him. Steve

 

 

John Updike

 
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