Saturday, 11 June 2011

John Updike - Rabbit Angstrom. The four Novels

An incredible book about America and growing old. Similar topics to Roth, but less playful, more real and grittier.

There is a major catastropy in each book (his babykid is drowned by the mother, his young heroin-addicted girlfriend burns in his house) and each time Rabbit is caught in between urge to run-away into freedom and the security of staying. And each decade he reacts differently.

“His house slips from him. He is free.” (Updike, 1971, p.555).

The younger hippie generation: “You never see them out in the sun but the’re all tan, with flat stomach muscles. Their one flaw is, the’re still soft inside. The’re like those chocolates we used to hate, those chocolates creams. (…). That’s what I like about those kids: they’re trying to kill it.Even if they kill themselves in the process.” “Kill what?” “The softness. Sex, love; me, mine.” (Updike, 1971, p.579).

“Everybody else has a life they try to fence in with some rules. You just do what you feel like and then when it blows up or runs down you sit there and pout.” (Updike, 1971, p.587).

“When he was around the lot it was like they were all trying to fill some big skin that Springer spent all his time and energy imagining, the ideal Springer Motors. When he died that skin became Harry’s own, to stand around in loosely.” (Updike, 1981, p.625).

“It gives him pleasure, makes Rabbit feel rich, to contemplate the world’s wasting, to know that the earth is mortal too.” (Updike, 1981, p.631).

“You’re wrong about my wantng what I don’t have. I pretty much like what I have. The trouble with that is, then you get afraid somebody will take it from you.” (Updike, 1981, p.685).

“He misses Janice. With her around, paternity is diluted, something the two of them did together, convincing, half by accident, and can laugh together about. When he contemplates it by himself, bringing a person into the world seems as terrible as pushing somebody into a furnace.” (Updike, 1981, p.781).

“Janice asks him why he is his heart so hard toward Nelson. Because Nelson has swallowedup the boy that was and substituted one more pushy man in the world, hairy wrists, big prick. Not enough room in the world.” (Updike, 1981, p.825).

“He is amused by the idea of having a daughter-in-law at all, a new branch of hiswealth.” (Updike, 1981, p.882).

“Maybe I haven’t done everything right in my life. I know I haven’t. But I haven’t committed the greatest sin. I haven’t laid down and died.” “Who says that’s the greatest sin?” “Everybody says it. The church the government. It’s against Nature, to give up, you’ve got to keep moving.” (Updike, 1981, p.966).

“What you lose as you age is witnesses, the ones that watched from early on and cared, like your own little grandstand.” (Updike, 1981, p.1041).

“grace you could call it, the feeling of collaboration, of being bigger than he really is. When you stand up on the first tee it is there, it comes back from wherever it lives during the rest of your life, endless possibility of a flawless round, a round without a speck of bad in it.” (Updike, 1990, 1100).

“In a way gluttony is an athletic feat, a stretching exercise.” (Updike, 1990, 1125).

“as he signs it with their condo number he feels like a god, casually dispatching thunderbolts; the sum will appear on his monthly statement, next year, when the world has moved greatly on.” (Updike, 1990, 1125).

“perhaps that is the saddest loss time brings, the lessening of excitement about anything.” (Updike, 1990, 1153).

“she had had a face-lift, to tighten up what she called her “wattles”. Life is a hill that gets steeper the more you climb.” (Updike, 1990, 1306).

Nelson, his son: “I keep trying to love you, but you don’t really want it. You’re afraid of ot, it would tie you down. You’ve been scared all your life of being tied down.” (Updike, 1990, 1429).

His garage: “it has become a cave of deferred decisions and sentimentally cherished junk.” (Updike, 1990, 1432).

“There was a time, when he was younger, when the thought of any change, even a distaster, gladdened his heartwith the possibility of a shake-up, of his world made new.” (Updike, 1990, 1440).

“Life, it’s incredible, it’s wearing the world out.” (Updike, 1990, 1464).

““Well, Nelson,” he says, “all I can tel you is, it isn’t so bad.” Rabbit thinks he should maybe say more, the kid looks wildly expectant, but enough. Maybe. Enough” (Updike, 1990, 1052).

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