Rabbit and The Pulitzer Prize

I want to apologize to everyone for slacking off on this blog. I really missed blogging but unfortunately, it took me a while to get back into it. Fortunately,  I am dedicated to posting more regularly.

One great thing about the Bookstagram community ( the bookish community on Instagram) is there are a number of group reads that you can join. There is one dedicated to reading Pulitizer Prize winners and in May the book was Rabbit is Rich by John Updike.  Luckily,  I had a  hardcover copy and thought it was time to read it.

The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction is dedicated to finding the best book of fiction written by an American.  As a rule, I don’t try to read a book just because it won a prize but sometimes you find some winners that sound fascinating and you want to read them. I have read 33 winners. Some of them like The Bridge of San Luis ReyTo Kill a MockingbirdA Death in the FamilyA Confederacy of DuncesEmpire Falls, and The Adventures of Kalivar and Clay are favorites of mine.  I like some of the books that have won in the last 20 years like Olive KittredgeMiddlesex, and A Visit from the Goon Squad.  I even like lesser-known winners like A Bell for Adano and The Late George Apley.

I am lucky that I have read the first two books in the Rabbit series. The first book in the series is Rabbit, Run. Harry ” Rabbit ” Angstrom was a star high school basketball player.  The book takes place in the 50s and Harry, in his 20s,  feels trapped not only from his dead-end job as a kitchen gadget salesman but from his marriage to  Janice as they live in the suburb of Mount Judge with their young son Nelson. Feeling trapped from finding out that Janice is pregnant again, Harry impulsively drives down to visit his hometown and while having dinner with his old basketball coach,  meets Ruth and moves in with her for a couple of months.  The book captures Harry’s restlessness and his indecision on which woman to stay with.  After a tragedy, he goes back to Janice,  even though Ruth is also pregnant with his child.

The second book in the series is Rabbit Redux. It takes place in 1967, the “Summer of Love”. The book starts out with Janice leaving Harry for another man. Rabbit works at a printing shop as a linotype operator,  which was then becoming an obsolete profession. Harry winds up taking care of his son Nelson and eventually opens his home to Skeeter, a black Vietnam Vet drug dealer, and Jill, a teenage runaway from Connecticut.  Both Harry and Nelson fall for Jill but a neighbor sets fire to Harry’s house and tragedy happens. I didn’t like this book as much. Skeeter and Harry argue a lot about the politics of the day and it’s hard to imagine you would invite strangers to live in your house with your 13-year-old son.

My biggest complaint about Updike is his obsession with adultery.  This is very apparent in his novel Couples.  This book takes place in the seaside community of Tarbox, Massachusetts during the Kennedy administration.  The main character is Piet Hannema, a womanizing contractor who goes to church every Sunday. Piet works for a new couple in town and winds up having an affair with a married pregnant Southerner named Foxy. There’s also wipe swapping. Tarbox seems like a hotbed of sexual activities.  The book turned me off to reading more Updike.

However, I am really enjoying Rabbit is Rich,  which a lot of people say is the best of the series. Rabbit is heading to middle age a wealthy man who owns a Toyota car dealership that he inherited from his father-in-law. Nelson comes back home from Kent State with a girl named Melanie.  It comes out that he impregnated Pru, a slightly older secretary who worked at Kent State. Harry tries to straighten out Nelson’s life while wondering about what happened to the daughter he had with Ruth, who now lives on a Pennsylvania farm not too far from Mount Judge. It’s funny and so far Harry hasn’t slept with anyone but his wife.

Reading Rabbit is Rich makes me want to read more Updike.  I have a copy of The Centaur and it sounds interesting.  It’s about a high school teacher who is teaching about Greek mythology and I was recommended to read it by a Booktuber. I also know I want to read more Pulitizer Prize winners such as Arrowsmith and Angels of Repose. One book, sometimes, inspires you to read another book and then yet another book. That’s always a good thing for a reader like me.