REVIEW: Rabbit, Run by John Updike

Rabbit, Run is another of the 100 Essential Novels according to www.popchartlab.com. I like Updike and have since I first read Rabbit at Rest many years ago. I’m not sure why it’s taken me this long, and this prompt, to pick up another Rabbit.  Maybe I didn’t see the point since I started at the end of the series.

Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom was a high-school basketball star and now sells cars at his father-in-law’s dealership in a dying rust belt town in the late 1950’s. His stay-at-home wife Janice is pregnant and always drinking. He is suffocating in adult life and not really sure who he is if he isn’t the basketball star. He leaves his wife for Ruth who seems to offer an escape to his drudgery. He goes back for the baby, which drunk Janice drowns. Life is still a dead end. Rabbit is bored and frankly that makes him a bit boring.

In Rabbit, Run Harry is just a jock that can’t grow past his glory days. I’m glad I didn’t start with the beginning of Updike’s Rabbit series. I’m not sure I would have picked up another of his novels and I would have missed some masterful writing. There are moments of it in this book, but I think there are more in Rabbit at Rest and more still in Updike’s Eastwick books.

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Books and Chocolate Back to the Classics 2017 Challenge Complete

Task Title Date Finished
19th Century Classic Jane Eyre

May 21

20th Century Classic Women in Love

March 31

Classic by woman author Pride and Prejudice

July 23

Classic in translation The Metamorphosis

September 17

Classic published before 1800 The Merchant of Venice

April 8

Romance Classic Anna Karenina

January 19

Gothic/Horror Classic Frankenstein

February 24

Classic with a number in the title Fahrenheit 451

October 28

Classic about an animal Moby Dick

April 23

Classic set in a place you’d like to visit Wuthering Heights

January 22

Award-winning classic The Great Gatsby

March 5

Russian classic Crime and Punishment

June 25

Rose City Reader 2017 European Challenge Complete

Task Title Country Date Finished
5 books set in different European countries or written by different European authors The Shadow Land Bulgaria

May 20

The Days of Abandonment Italy

July 9

Anna Karenina Russia

January 19

A Place of Greater Safety France

June 18

The Shadows in the Wind Spain

July 2

Our Endless Numbered Days England and Germany

January 28

The Unbroken Line of the Moon Sweden

January 9

Middlemarch England

March 5

Frankenstein Switzerland

February 24

Crime and Punishment Russia

June 25

A Man Called Ove Sweden

May 30

The Girl in the Blue Beret France

June 24

The Metamorphosis Germany September 17

Muse Monthly 2017 Challenge Complete

Task Title Date Finished
A Muse Monthly Book A Word for Love

March 5

A book by an author you heard about through Muse Monthly Our Endless Number of Days

January 28

A book by a writer of color The Mothers

January 13

A book by an LGBTQ writer Madame Bovary

October 13

A book by a female writer The Unbroken Line of the Moon

January 9

A book in translation A Man Called Ove

May 30

A book you should have read in high school Pride and Prejudice

July 23

A banned book Frankenstein

February 27

A collection of poetry Voices on the Wind

October 31

A book that takes place in the future The Road

October 7

A book recommended by a friend Some Luck

February 11

A book that has been made into a TV show or movie Jane Eyre

May 21

A book you’ve been meaning to read forever Crime and Punishment

June 25

A book that features a library The Shadows in the Wind

July 2

A short story collection Davy Byrnes Stories

January 2

A celebrity memoir Wildflower

October 29

A book with an unreliable narrator Wuthering Heights

January 22

An immigrants’ story Into the Beautiful North

April 30

REVIEW: Golden Age by Jane Smiley

I’m sad to leave Iowa and the Langdon clan of Jane Smiley’s 100 Year Trilogy. It’s been a comforting place to escape from the chaotic real life of today.

Golden Age, the final book, starts in the year 1987 with the welcoming of a new family member and ends in a not so welcoming 2019. More members of the family have passed on, some in old age, some tragically young. Smiley again touches on the current events of the time, the housing bubble, global warming, the tragi-comedy of U.S. politics, the banking crisis, 9/11, the Iraq wars and the war on terrorism.

Golden Age feels sadder than the first two books, Some Luck and Early Warning. Maybe in part because it’s the last book, or maybe because it isn’t softened by nostalgia and the time frame covered is all recent memory, or maybe simply because the Langdon’s themselves have left the comfort of Iowa, of past farm life, of home.

The trilogy was a beautiful read and the Langdon clan a pleasure to spend time with. These epic family dramas truly are what Smiley does best.

The Golden Age appropriately accomplishes “Bingo” for me in the 2017 Book Bingo Challenge.

REVIEW: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

I seem to live in Iowa lately – listening to Gilead on Overdrive and reading Jane Smiley’s Golden Age – I like Iowa. It feels safe and homelike. That solid, Midwestern values, hearty food, kind of comfort that is perfectly suited to these shorter, colder days.

John Ames is in the twilight of his life in 1956, and is writing to his seven-year-old son all the things he won’t be around to tell him; how he met his much younger wife – the boy’s mother, how he became the Congregationalist minister in their small, dying Iowan town of Gilead, as were his father and grandfather, the loss of his first wife and child and the loneliness that ensued, how much he wishes he were younger and able to be there to see him grow up. He focuses a lot on his troubled relationship with his godson, the son of his best friend, perhaps trying to decipher who he is for himself more than explain himself to his son, perhaps needing to resolve the relationship enough to ease his conscious before leaving this life.

Ames is full of Robinson’s usual Calvinist words, instructions for living a good life, community responsibilities and family obligations. He touches on slavery, abolitionism and the Midwest’s role in the Civil War through memories of his father and grandfather, but he casts no judgement. He sorts through the years of sermons he has given, wonders what will happen to his words after he is gone and surmises they will most likely be thrown away. Life will go on without him. Dust to dust. Gilead and his dwindling church may not. Ashes to Ashes.

The beauty of Ames’ faith and Robinson’s prose make this award winning novel a piece of art.