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And the future one day comes
on July 4, 2004
Sad is the day when a man realizes that he is getting old --this is the day when he also realizes that what he used to call future is his actual present. This is when some people think that you don't live one day more --but you have one day less. This is sad and depressive, but this is the tone that John Updike, one of the best American writers ever, chooses to conclude the third installment in his Rabbit quartet.
Keeping up the same level of the two previous Rabbit novels, "Rabbit is Rich" was deservedly awarded with Pulitzer Prize, American Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award. Not bad for a novel about man who has a sort of Peter Pan syndrome and he's afraid of growing up --although this is not this clear stated in any novel. In the very beginning the narrative meditates on the fear of death, and from page one on, we can realize that there is no place to go but down.
Rabbit, his family, friends and enemies are back more or less ten years after the events depicted in the previous book. Not only is he older, but also he is wiser and bitter. He's living with his mother in law, and running the car lot that his father in law left. His son Nelson is at college, but sooner will be back --and so will problems.
In this novel, Nelson has a major role too. He is becoming sort of a Rabbit Jr. --his fears, mistakes, anxieties are more or less the same his father had. Generation after generation, people are still the same --we're the same kind of 'animals' after all. And Harry Rabbit Angstrom can't do much to change his son --that hates him because of Jill's death. Incapable of any kind of communication, the two can only drift apart, hoping that time can heal the pain.
Updike keeps the detailed examination of the sexual moral of the middle class. After a close look at the 50's and 60's sexual conduct, the author turns his magnifying glass to couples in the late 70's. This was when marriages were suffering the consequences of the sexual revolution, and an enormous boredom is replacing the joy of the discovery of a new sexuality in the previous decade. These were also the time of high consumerism. Rabbit is obsessed with a magazine called "Consumer Reports". It seems that the whole country is in a time of prosperity and people can spend as much as they want --but it will have consequences in the end.
It is not a fluke that Updike writes great prose. His text is full of wit and imagination --but what I like best is how accurate he can portray that society that is falling apart. His sharp dialogues are pitch perfect, and the cynicism is only a plus in the narrative.
Like Charlie --Rabbit's coworker and friend, and his wife's ex-lover-- once said: "That was the good old days. These are the bad new days". And Rabbit doesn't seem to have a bright future ahead of him and his family --which, by the way, is a promise to another great novel, called "Rabbit at Rest". As, it turns out the future one day always comes.