Dangit, I was all ready to write a scathing review, full of loathing and disgust. I was actually looking forward to it - there are so many things that pissed me off, boredom not withstanding. Lo, the book turned in the last minute and wrested a grudging respect from me. Gosh, i hate it when that happens.
First things first: all the religion debate dated this book for me right away. Nowadays, the only relevant religion debate is whether to follow one or not. To religion or not to religion is more relevant than a critique of The Religion (for those born after 1990, Im referring here to Christianity). The Church is such a non-influencer in secular life (unless personally invited) that any critique of its methods or validity is so unbelievably irrelevant as to be annoying when taken on as a serious American Topic. These days, anyone taking this on as a serious topic of debate is just looking for a quick win and being an asshole. So, whatever.
Next, the portrayal of women is disgusting. Not one of the women was portrayed favorably, or were even treated with respect from the author. Instead of women as madonnas or whores, the portrayal was a choice between washed up old hags or whores, no saints allowed. The women were either desireable or not, period, and no more to them, except maybe a little breastfeeding ability. Even the ministers wife does not escape this indictment. Rabbit runs around town either rubbing up on his wife/mistress/ministers wife, or he's noticing the hair on their legs, their varicose veins, their back fat or their masculinity. He takes advise and comfort from none of them.
But the thing that pisses me off about this is that Updike doesnt seem to be doing this as commentary; it seems that it really hasnt occurred to him to see women in any other way. The reason I say this is because i can tell when hes trying to write about women seriously - he tries to sympathize with Janice and explain why she feels isolated and drinks to self-medicate, but even these explanations focus entirely too much on why she doesnt want to have sex with Rabbit.
Which brings me to: Rabbit is an asshole. He runs around escaping anything that could weigh him down with no self awareness or reflection. I can handle this kind of character in a book, and even relish in them.....when there is a reaction in the character to his own actions. I would expect that while Rabbit is running, he would be bothered by his own actions, or elated, or hell, even reflect on his lack of feelings about it. But Rabbit doesnt do that. Instead, he just runs with no reaction, no commentary, no insight. He just runs. I get that this is what rabbits do - they act on instinct, but Rabbit is not a real
rabbit,and as a human, he has to think something
about his actions. Without this layer, Rabbits thoughts are just one long run-on sentence....
And finally when you have a jumble of thoughts like this the way maybe rabbits do in the wild and you just keep thinking and thinking with no pause and then your thoughts jump around oh listen to that song on the radio isnt that funny its about a town in Pennsylvania i live in Pennsylvania i'll turn left no right I think i think i think Virginia Woolf was a jackass...
See how annoying that is? Sorry, Ginny, but stream of conscious writing is bullshit.
Anywho, my opinion turned in the last few pages - the only parts that justified the long run up to explain why Rabbit would run yet again makes sense and I felt I would run were I Rabbit too. The reluctant reunion with Janice, the accepting of responsibility for his son, the death if his daughter, all being too much, he's back to Ruth. And then when Ruth reveals her pregnancy (the jackass jackrabbit couldnt tell before????) ...well... I might have run too.
Listen up, Updike. I'm throwing you a bone with this third star.....against my instincts ;)