March 23, 2009

the road ahead looks rocky

Nathan Heller has a great appreciation of John Updike in n+1. This graf on Rabbit, Run is right on the money…

It’s a novel with a strong reactionary strain (a fairly misogynist one, too), but the book is also neurotically ambivalent about which trail to take: the broken Eisenhower-era family or the wayward, libertine, on-the-road life. We empathize with Rabbit, or are meant to, as much as we empathize with his pinioned wife. The book is of a piece with Updike’s native beliefs, the idea, as he put it in an interview, “that we are all a party, in one way or another, to a social contract, and when one unit in the social web takes off, there are tugs and breaks he leaves behind him.” But Rabbit’s quandary—and it’s part of the character’s tragic nature that he sees the larger meaning of his predicament—is symptomatic of a larger fracture in the culture. The road ahead looks rocky no matter where he runs. These frightening cultural fault lines gave Rabbit, Run resonance and edge—in short, its “news.”