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.
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.
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.