Rabbit, Run: Aimless

“The truth is,” Eccles tells him with womanish excitement, in a voice embarrassed but determined, “you’re monstrously selfish. You’re a coward. You don’t care about right or wrong; you worship nothing except your own worst instincts.”

—John Updike, Rabbit, Run


Spoiler Alert—the following post discusses plot points that may spoil your own reading of the book, Rabbit, Run. But honestly, the book is not that enjoyable in the first place, so my spoilers won’t ruin your experience any more than Updike did by writing it in the first place.

John UpdikeFor some reason, Updike’s Rabbit series is one that I’ve wanted to read for a while. Mostly because I had no idea what they were about. I no longer have that desire.

I am certainly not the first person to say it, but Rabbit, Run is a hard book to like.

It drips with angst, disillusionment and desperation. Updike himself wrote that the main character, Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom’s last name was intended to convey the idea of “angst stream”.

Mission accomplished.

The constant stream of angst is off-putting. Which, I’m sure, is exactly what Updike was trying to communicate.

I’m probably old-fashioned in that I want a protagonist whom I can like. And if that’s not possible, a protagonist I can relate to.  Or an antagonist.

Or a deuteragonist. Or a tritagonist. Anybody.

None of the characters here are likeable. Not the always-drunk Janice who drowns her newborn. Not either set of in-laws. Not Ruth. Not Tothero. Not even Jack Eccles who seems to be the only person who is trying to do anything good (as he sees it).

And, I suppose if I can’t like the characters, I’d like a book to give me some kind of conflict resolution, or a moral of the story.

Not here.

It’s like Seinfeld reimagined as a tragedy. It’s not funny. No one learns anything. The characters don’t change or grow. There’s not even much of a plot. Just a host of damaged characters damaging each other further.

And Rabbit running away from it all.

Or not, because he even fails at running away.

The best word I can think of to describe this book is aimless. Or pointless. Like Rabbit’s life. But then fans of the book will say that is exactly the point.

I’m glad to check this one off the list. And despite its critical acclaim, I no longer believe Rabbit, Run belongs on a top 100 book list for any reason other than literary types and Updike fans say it does.  Now taking nominations for its replacement.


Media: Book, 264 pages
Rating: 1 Star (out of 5)


Books Mentioned in this Post:

Rabbit, Run by John Updike
Rabbit Series by John Updike


  1. […] didn’t enjoy my experience reading Rabbit, Run by John Updike. It’s a novel with very little to say and it spends way too much time saying […]

  2. […] that really stands out from this book is Kim. Unlike protagonists from other books on our list (boorish Rabbit Angstrom or whiny Will Ladislaw), Kim is an incurable optimist and a survivor. A very intelligent and […]