Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Novels

Inspired by the NY Times story chronicling the best American fiction of the last 25 years (see article here), I decided to try reading "Rabbit, Run" by John Updike. Because I have an English degree, I figured it was time I read ONE of his novels, even though I have read much of his nonfiction.

I must say I enjoyed it a great deal. After describing to a friend a particularly sexy and sad scene in the novel, she replied, "I thought all Rabbit did was play golf." Au contraire, this novel might be the fictional test of Thoreau's maxim that "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."

Time Magazine described it this way: Updike, modern American literature's smoothest and most limber stylist, chose an unlikely soul for his great fictional hero: Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom, an ignorant, philandering 20-something ex-jock, long past his high school glory days and feeling trapped in a job, a marriage, a town, a family that bore him. In a situation like that, running away is exactly what comes naturally to him. Rabbit is not a character calculated to inspire affection, but he is an unflinchingly authentic specimen of American manhood, and his boorishness makes his rare moments of vulnerability and empathy that much more heartbreaking.

I haven't read a novel in years. Literally, years. That is not to say I haven't read a book. Instead, I have shifted over the years exclusively to nonfiction, partially because I am interested, but partially, too, because I teach a rhetoric class. Now that Rabbit has reawakened something in me, I am inspired to read many of the works I have long neglected. For instance, I just finished Nathaniel West's "Miss Lonelyhearts" (weird characters acting in bizarre fashion--claustrophobic and sad) and "The Day of the Locust" (a perfect cross in style between Raymond Chandler and F. Scott Fitzgerald set in 30s Hollywood). Next, I plan on reading Toni Morrison's "Beloved." I have the fiction bug again.

1 comment:

MC said...

I think you might like the whole tetraology (Rabbit Redux, Rabbit Is Rich, and Rabbit At Rest), if you liked the first Rabbit novel, however you might burn out if you read them in succession. It's almost like a social history of America since the 50s. I think Nathaniel West is great as well, too bad he's like a cult favorite.

I was under the impression that I read fiction 40%-60% in relation to nonficiton, but I just looked at the last 10 books I read and I read only one novel-Never Let Me Go by Kazu Ishiguro. I'm hoping to read more-and more fictiion in general when I'm on vacation.