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Rabbit, Run (Penguin Modern Classics) [Paperback]

John Updike
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Jun 2006 Penguin Modern Classics

The first book in his award-winning 'Rabbit' series, John Updike's Rabbit, Run contains an afterword by the author in Penguin Modern Classics.

It's 1959 and Harry 'Rabbit' Angstrom, one time high school sports superstar, is going nowhere. At twenty-six he is trapped in a second-rate existence - stuck with a fragile, alcoholic wife, a house full of overflowing ashtrays and discarded glasses, a young son and a futile job. With no way to fix things, he resolves to flee from his family and his home in Pennsylvania, beginning a thousand-mile journey that he hopes will free him from his mediocre life. Because, as he knows only too well, 'after you've been first-rate at something, no matter what, it kind of takes the kick out of being second-rate'.

John Updike (1932-2009) was born in Shillington, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Harvard College in 1954, and spent a year at Oxford, England, at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. From 1955 to 1957 he was a member of staff at The New Yorker. Updike was the author of twenty-one novels as well as numerous collections of short stories, poems and criticism, and is one of only three authors to win more than one Pulitzer Prize. His most famous works are the Harry 'Rabbit' Angstrom series, all of which are published in Penguin Modern Classics: Rabbit, Run (1960), Rabbit Redux (1971), Rabbit is Rich (1981) and Rabbit at Rest (1990).

If you enjoyed Rabbit, Run, you might like Don DeLillo's Americana, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.

'It is sexy, in bad taste, violent and basically cynical. And good luck to it'

Angus Wilson, Observer

'That special polish, that brilliance; Updike is among the best'

Malcolm Bradbury

'Brilliant and poignant ... By his compassion, clarity of insight, and crystal-bright rose, [Updike] makes Rabbit's sorrow his and our own'

Washington Post

Frequently Bought Together

Rabbit, Run (Penguin Modern Classics) + Rabbit Redux (Penguin Modern Classics) + Rabbit is Rich (Penguin Modern Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (1 Jun 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141187832
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141187839
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 23,883 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Updike was born in 1932 in Shillington, Pennsylvania. He attended Shillington High School, Harvard College and the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art at Oxford, where he spent a year on a Knox Fellowship. From 1955 to 1957 he was a member of the staff of the New Yorker, to which he contributed numerous poems, short stories, essays and book reviews. After 1957 he lived in Massachusetts until his death.

John Updike's first novel, The Poorhouse Fair, was published in 1959. It was followed by Rabbit, Run, the first volume of what have become known as the Rabbit books, which John Banville described as 'one of the finest literary achievements to have come out of the US since the war'. Rabbit is Rich (1981) and Rabbit at Rest (1990) were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Other novels by John Updike include Marry Me, The Witches of Eastwick, which was made into a major feature film, Memories of the Ford Administration, Brazil, In the Beauty of the Lilies, Toward the End of Time and Villages. He has written a number of volumes of short stories, and a selection entitled Forty Stories, taken from The Same Door, Pigeon Feathers, The Music School and Museums and Women, is published in Penguin, as is the highly acclaimed The Afterlife and Other Stories. His criticism and his essays, which first appeared in magazines such as The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books, have been collected in five volumes. Golf Dreams, a collection of his writings on golf, has also been published. His Collected Poems 1953-1993 brings together almost all the poems from five previous volumes, including 'Hoping for a Hoopoe', 'Telephone Poles' and 'Tossing and Turning', as well as seventy poems previously unpublished in book form. The last books of his to be published by Hamish Hamilton were My Father's Tears and Other Stories, and Endpoint and Other Poems. He died in January 2009.

Product Description

About the Author

John (Hoyer) Updike (1932-) American novelist, short story writer and poet, internationally known for his novels RABBIT, RUN (1960), RABBIT REDUX (1971), RABBIT IS RICH (1981), and RABBIT AT REST (1990). His latest novel is VILLAGES (Penguin, 2005).

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boys are playing basketball around a telephone pole with a backboard bolted to it. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Rabbit, Run" Review 12 April 2009
This is the first novel in the Rabbit series and before you have even finished it, you will be running to order the complete series.
Set very specifically in 1959 urban America the reader is catapulted into the lives of its seemingly mundane citizens. This is a story that is immediately recognisable. The main theme is the everyday pressure of life and how we choose to relieve it. When the protagonist Harry 'Rabbit' Angstrom, a former sports star, decides to up and leave his wife Janice, he sets a tragedy in motion. In his own words, 'If you have the guts to be yourself...other people'll pay your price.'
John Updike uses precise psychological brush strokes to portray his characters. From the toddler Nelson to Rabbit Angstrom and a plethora of characters in between, Updike reveals human nature in all its intricate detail but above all, in a non judgemental manner.
Mediocrity, failure, selfishness, depression, alcoholism, rebellion, religion, love and sex are all laid bare in this brave novel. The ultimate question is should we run and do we have a duty to ourselves to do so?
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Dour Depiction of the Times 20 Sep 2009
This is the first in a series of four books Updike wrote to document a rather unique view of America in each decade from the Sixties. The writing style makes for very slow reading, the attention to detail is sometimes painful because you will be left waiting for a dialogue to continue while he describes the character's frame of mind and reference. It brings you very close to the characters, often uncomfortably close.

Updike's characters are not cheerleaders and college football hero's. He writes about everyone else, the vast forgotten people who didn't become celebrities and sports stars and who have become cynical if not downright bitter and angry. It's compelling reading but don't look for a happy ending either, nobody learns any lessons or becomes an American hero and if he does acknowledge the American Dream it is only to say "forget about it, it's not for you".

This is hard gritty writing with a scattering of black humour, you'll need to set some time aside to read it, and the three follow ups. I've read the first two and I will start the third once my sensibilities have had a chance to recuperate. I would recommend this book to everyone except cheerleaders and football hero's.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Rabbit, Run is an exploration into how a man copes with mediocrity, after being excellent at something. In this case, the Rabbit is Harry 'Rabbit' Angstrom, a frustrated 26 year old man, who was once a great basketball player, now stuck in a loveless marriage and a second rate job. Rabbit runs, with devastating consequences.

This is a book which cuts to the quick of the human condition, cynically explores brilliantly the difficulty of simply living an 'un-special' existence, and the breakdown of relationships through that costal erosion effect of gradually falling out of love with your partner.

I can't believe that it took me 33 years to come to John Updike. Reading Rabbit, Run is a real challenge, because as a recently married man, the issues that he so deftly deals with, have some resonance. I think the beauty of his writing, is in his ability to unnervingly hit upon the essence of what makes life so hard to live. Parts of the book are uncomfortable to read, but because they are so well written, you cannot help but tag along for the ride. This is not a book to read if you are looking to cheer yourself up, but if you want to better understand the human condition, I think you could do no better.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rabbit, run 21 Feb 2009
This was the first Updike novel I read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is written in the present tense which gives it a certain movie-like quality, making you feel that neither you nor the characters have any idea of what will happen next.
The book is centred around Harry Angstrom at a certain period of his life and it is divided into three parts. I don't want to give away any of the plot, but I highly encourage anyone who is interested in reading a novel by Updike to start with this one!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rabbit, Run - John Updike 3 Sep 2006
Many good writers can tell an engrossing story, but only the best manage to reach inside your head and grasp perceptions that you yourself had never acknowledged but instantly recognise, shudder or smile at, and empathise with when you read. Suddenly you are there with the characters, experiencing everything they see, feel, hear, smell, taste and touch, every twinge, every furrowed brow and fleeting thought. John Updike is one of those masters and many of his descriptions stay in your head forever. I can't look at rhododendrons without remembering his description of them in Rabbit, Run - 'when the first blooms came, they were like the single big flower Oriental prostitutes wear on the side of their heads...but when the hemispheres of blossom appear in crowds, they remind him of...the hats worn by cheap girls to church on Easter'.

All the Rabbit books are beautifully written. Rabbit's indecisiveness, his angst and discontent, are painted with an incredibly masterly touch, as are his effects on those around him. Updike captures not only characters but the whole human predicament. His insights are second to none - with a few well chosen words he can nail a feeling, thought or action where other lesser authors would struggle and use ten times as many less suitable words.

My only slight disappointment about Updike is that many of his characters are so stereotypically 'male'. They are able to fall out of love when their wives fall into depressed alcoholism, their hair thins, they lose interest in sex, or they become overweight, able to walk out on partners and kids without seeing to miss them, or with only a flicker of self-indulgent angst.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Published 15 days ago by xxx
1.0 out of 5 stars ww2
Updike writes beautifully crafted sentences- but that's all. The novel is mean-spirited and totally unconvincing in its characterisation. Read more
Published 26 days ago by rollingstone
1.0 out of 5 stars disappointing
I was looking forward to reading this - a classic.
But it didn't work for me. The plot was lost in the vast amount of descriptive writing. Read more
Published 3 months ago by L Barker
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant writing
I tried to read this years ago, but stopped because I found the characters so unsympathetic. They still are, but their thoughts, feelings, muddled fears and desires are so well... Read more
Published 5 months ago by ReluctantTechno
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I know John Updike has a great reputation and many years ago I read him but I'm afraid I gave up on this one. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Diane Thurman
4.0 out of 5 stars Entry Point
Slow start but great finish and a way into a fantastic series. Unlike some, I thought that the next book 'Rabbit Redux' is even better,
Published 5 months ago by HairGrylls
4.0 out of 5 stars a cut above
This book is written with a style and panache that far out weighs similar novels, magically written. Very very good
Published 7 months ago by Tracy Giles
4.0 out of 5 stars More descriptive text
A brilliant book...but I had to focus through all of the long descriptive text....finding myself wanting to get to the next reveal of the plot... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Peter the reader
2.0 out of 5 stars The voice of dissent
Do you know, by the end I was just hating this book. It is just about the most depressing thing I have ever read. Not that I look for sweetness, light and happy endings. Read more
Published 10 months ago by worldofjimbob
4.0 out of 5 stars Rabbit run
A stimulating and gripping read. It created a picture of the time and brought to life stereotypes being lived out
Published 12 months ago by Dilysg
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