1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 2002
I wonder what makes "Rabbit is Rich" so critically acclaimed. Who the hell is interested in an average American car-sales-man in his forties, decaying like a tooth somewhere in the midst of America, the worst place conceivable.
True, Updike is an unsurpassed wordsmith, but I am totally indifferent concerning the plot.
America has not very much redeeming features anyhow, except its literature, but this book is a all a yawn.
on January 5, 2002
As good as the first in the "Rabbit" series. "Rabbit Is Rich" is Updike at the peak of his powers, describing in rich, vivid, compassionate detail the feelings, observations, memories, and dreams of recognizable people in mainstream American situations.
As in "Rabbit, Run," the sex scenes (and the sexual energy in general) are poignant and unforgettable.
Through these characters, Updike offers us a portrait of life's restlessness and the pitfalls of growing older. Like "Rabbit, Run" (and unlike "Rabbit Redux") this novel can be read as a standalone and be rewarding.
on August 14, 2001
I once heard a learned friend say that 'Rabbit Is Rich' stands alongside Marquez's 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' and Kundera's 'The book of Laughter and Forgetting' as the three seminal works of the Postmodern Era. Now, me, I just a simple commodities trader, the way I would put it is that 'Rabbit Is Rich' is Updike's best. He portrays the ego, the cowardice, the greed, the racism, as well as the strength, charisma and force of character that are inherent to many Alpha Males waging war in the Free Market, whether it be cars or stocks or commodities, the result is the same, ABC: Always Be Closing...Updike hits our breed right on the nose, our Nietzschean love of power, and our true contempt for the politically correct simpering pussies who have no idea how to survive in the marketplace. Rabbit is a regular guy, a regular guy with flaws but not without his own brand of stubborn courage...and it is that hard-headed aspect, his failure to give up that makes him and this book the Richest of all.
on May 30, 2001
In this third installment of the Rabbit series, circa 1979/1980, we find Harry ("Rabbit") Angstom confronted by inflation, gas shortages, the Carter Administration's crisis of confidence, and most importantly by his son, Nelson. Nelson, who is now in his 20's, desparately wants to work as a salesman in Rabbit's Toyota dealership, even though that would mean displacing the company's top salesman. Harry feels that Nelson lacks the necessary maturity and competence for the position and wants him to return to college in Ohio. To complicate matters, the dealership is now owned by Janice and by Rabbit's mother-in-law, who inherited the firm from Rabbit's late father-in-law. The women are on Nelson's side and, of course, gang up on Rabbit.
These are only a very few of the many complications in this great novel. Updike further develops the Harry/Nelson father and son relationship that was begun in _Rabbit Redux_. Updike has an uncanny ability to write realistic dialogue. The reader is able to gets into the heart and head of Nelson, whose anguish is palpable. It is the anguish of a young man who desperately wants to break away from his family and the past, and to attain personal responsibility, while seriously questioning his readiness for independence. Nelson, thus, must not only struggle with his feelings about a very pregnant girlfriend who he feels it his responsibilty to marry and to support, but also with some very painful memories for which he severely blames his father. Mutual resentments felt by both the son AND the father are revealed. Both admit a fear that Nelson may be doomed to repeat the same mistakes made years earlier by Rabbit.
The novel also realistically presents the various sexual insecurities of the average middle-aged male. Who else best represents the aging, average American male, but Harry Angstrom? Happily, Rabbit discovers much that is positive about himself in an interesting and sensitively portrayed (and unexpected) encounter with a friend's wife.
I highly recommend _Rabbit Is Rich_ to everyone who truly appreciates excellent writing and rich characterizations.
on April 6, 2001
It's 1979, and Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom is now part-owner and chief salesman of his deceased father-in-law's Toyota dealership; smaller Japanese imports promise greater fuel efficiency in these times of gas shortage and skyrocketing inflation. With their finances finally solvent and their marriage somewhat stable, Rabbit and his wife Janice have joined a country club for the affluent middle class and have a new circle of friends. In true lecherous Rabbit style, he fantasizes about the wife of one of his friends, in one of the novel's three major plot threads. On a group vacation to a Carribean island, he barely misses out on realizing his fantasy in a spouse-swapping episode described in rich, erotic detail, an Updike forte.
The second plot thread concerns Rabbit's son Nelson, who has been dawdling away his college years and comes home with a surprise: He has gotten a girl named Pru (short for "prudish") pregnant and intends to drop out of college and marry her. Rabbit reluctantly agrees to give Nelson a sales job at the dealership to appease Janice and her mother. While Rabbit has accumulated some wisdom and levelheadedness in his middle age, Nelson, in his young adulthood, has taken on some of Rabbit's judgmental and censorious attitude toward people, and his impulsive business decisions hurt the dealership's profits. Like his father long ago, Nelson has a tendency to run away when encroached upon by life's pressures.
The third plot thread concerns a girl who innocently visits the dealership one day. She reminds Rabbit of somebody...He realizes she could be the illegitimate daughter he fathered twenty years ago in his fling with a woman named Ruth. He needs to confront Ruth to achieve closure over this missing piece in his life's puzzle but is unable to work up the nerve.
"Rabbit Is Rich" is not as turbulent as its predecessor, "Rabbit Redux," but that could be because 1979 was not as interesting as 1969. I see these novels as chronicles of the American zeitgeist, starring an Everyman to whom everybody can relate in some way or another, like him or not. Updike is one of our great contemporary wordsmiths, turning everyday sights and sounds into majestic literary canvases. His ability to describe the most mundane things in life -- a plane taking off, a crumpled car fender, a head of hair, the actions of a dog, the forced solemnity of a wedding ceremony -- with incredible perceptivity and poeticality makes you look at things you normally take for granted in a completely different light.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 2000
When even the hapless Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom of Rabbit, Run and Rabbit Redux finds himself living the American Dream, circa 1980, in his own typical fashion, that is reactively, due to his father-in-law dying and his wife and mother-in-law giving him the car dealership to run, he finds himself missing something. Is it the 20 year old illegitimate child he suddenly suspects he's fathered? Resolution of issues, both psychological and territorial, with his son Nelson, eyewitness to the weakest moments of Harry's life, himself at a crossroads without many options? The bliss of a new relationship, perhaps with the youngest of country club wives the Angstroms pal around with these days? Or simply more wealth, and a home of their own, out and away from old Bessie and the Springer nest? Unlike the first two Rabbit books, this is a 423 page novel of minor buildups leading up to a less than monumental payoff, possessing a clear lack of important events(which may disappoint some readers). Rabbit is Rich seems to be more about the things we want than the things we get. Even as Harry exceeds his wildest imaginings, it is the constant hunger, longing, and awareness that the grave is hiding around the corner that makes him feel most human. The characters are much more vivid and believable in this book than the first sequel, and as always with Updike, every sentence is a delicacy.
on November 6, 2000
Updike often writes like an overgrown, angry adolescent. There is a lot of bitterness in regards to some of the basic facts of life (as when Rabbit compares bringing a child into the world to pushing someone you know into a furnace) and he has a wonderful ability to see throught the boring nonsense of the world that others by into.
That's why even though Updike's characters and preoccupations are truly immersed in the world there is always the sense that nothing in this world ever satisfies, not sex, money or human relations- they are all a let down.
The dead are a continual presence in Rabbit's mind and at points in the narrative he feels eerily close to them, right beneath his feet, right above the stars.
Death-obsessed, self-absorbed writers are often the most powerful, for unlike others they tend to stare the bitter fact of death in the face without a stoical copout of acceptance. No, instead of being calm and placid about death, Rabbit is all anger; not only will he die, but life in the meantime will often be a dissapointment. No wonder I can rarely read more than 2 Updike novels in a row - he's so miserable!!! Cheer up John!!!
It goes without saying that as the name Updike is on the cover of the book, you can depend on the writing being cleanly beautiful. Nabokov pointed out that the imagery of Dickens is spaced perfectly between the more necessary information of the plot, and I think the same applies to Updike - he exhibits perfect control over his lyricism and his poetics can achieve a higher pitch against the backdrop of seemingly mundane details.
The Rabbit series becomes deeper and richer as you go on, for every detail and interaction continues to mean more and more as the memory of past events strengthens the vividness of present events.
on April 3, 2000
No question about it: Updike knows how to do middle-aged, middle-American angst as well or better than any other writer. His Rabbit Angstrom grieves for his lost youth and tries to hold on to it while he settles into middle age as into a hot bath. Rabbit is so self-centered, so unable to act appropriately despite his best intentions, so obsessed with sex, so crass that we have no trouble distancing ourselves from him, but in our heart of hearts we know we are not much different -- and that's Updike's genius. His characters are at the same time archetypal and familiar. If you have entered middle age, you'll shudder in recognition; if you haven't yet, here's a taste of Things To Come. (And if you like this novel, try Joseph Heller's Something Happened for a different, similarly brilliant, take on this phase of life.)
on January 27, 2000
10 Years after the previous novel RABBIT REDUX, Rabbit Angstrom is now the owner of his late father-in-law's Toyota dealership. The Angstrom's belong to a club. They pal around with the rich element in town. Rabbit's son Nelson is starting to take after his father in some negative ways.
The living characters from the previous novels all show up again. Rabbit spends much of his time reflecting not only basketball, but people now dead, and his own mortality. His marriage is now stable, though always dysfunctional, and he realizes he is entering into the 2nd half of his life.
Money hasn't made Rabbit any happier. If anything he was much more easy-going when he worked with his father as a printer.
The book, like the others, ends in a false hope happy ending. Read Updike if you want to ponder life or be shocked. The effort is well worth it.