Posts Tagged ‘John Updike’

Running on empty: One young man wrestles with life decisions both big and small in Updike’s ‘Rabbit, Run’

September 3, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
Sept. 3, 2013

Harry Angstrom is a man in nearly constant motion, yet he usually seems to be falling behind. The 26-year-old protagonist of Rabbit, Run, the 1960 John Updike novel, is a perpetual man-child: He has the body of an adult but the moral sensibilities and decision-making abilities of an adolescent.

When the book opens, Angstrom — Rabbit to his high-school classmates — is walking along an alley when he comes across six boys playing basketball. Although he is wearing a business suit, he joins in their game:

In a wordless shuffle two boys are delegated to be his. They stand the other four. Though from the start Rabbit handicaps himself by staying ten feet out from the basket, it is still unfair. Nobody bothers to keep score. The surly silence bothers him. The kids call monosyllables to each other but to him they don’t dare a word. As the game goes on he can feel them at his legs, getting hot and mad, trying to trip him, but their tongues are still held. He doesn’t want this respect, he wants tot tell them there’s nothing to getting old, it takes nothing. In ten minutes another boy goes to the other side, so it’s just Rabbit Angstrom and one kid standing five. This boy, still midget but already diffident with a kind of rangy ease, is the best of the six; he wears a knitted cap with a green pompon well down over his ears and level with his eyebrows, giving his head a cretinous look. He’s a natural. The way he moves sideways without taking any steps, gliding on a blessing: you can tell. The way he waits before he moves. With luck he’ll become in time a crack athlete in the high school; Rabbit knows the way. You climb up through the little grades and then get to the top and everybody cheers; with the sweat in your eyebrows you can’t see very well and the noise swirls around you and lifts you up, and then you’re out, not forgotten at first, just out, and it feels good and cool and free. You’re out, and sort of melt, and keep lifting, until you become like to these kids just one more piece of the sky of adult things that hangs over them in the town, a piece that for some queer reason has clouded and visited them. They’ve not forgotten him: worse, they never heard of him. Yet in his time Rabbit was famous through the county; in basketball in his junior year he set a B-league scoring record that in his senior year he broke with a record that was not broken until four years later, that is, four years ago. Read the rest of this entry »

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