Wednesday, January 28, 2009
I remember the shock of recognition that went through me after reading the first few chapters of John Updike’s Rabbit Run. It was as if without even trying, Updike had managed to capture all of the anger, frustration, and fear of the older generation of men in my family.
Rabbit’s (Harry Angstrom) combination of entitlement and of memories shot through with absurd grandeur seemed to me then (and to a certain extent now) the essence of my family. Instead of telling stories of the future and how it could be better and happier, I was raised on a diet of the good old days. When wealthy Uncle Al would cart the family around the country in the company plan, before the land had been sold off, before dreams withered on the vine, and Aunt Margaret took up permanent residence in the lake house. Laced through these tales was always a certain kind of anxiety and irrational fear that occationally affects me to this day. Then and now, optimism is greeted with a kind of cruel sarcasm.
However, to a certain extent, reading the Rabbit suite of novels both helped me to embrace my family, while negating their worldview. Updike wrote about the middle-American experience with a kind of fearless bleakness, refusing to blink even in the face of the most cruel descriptions. It was less the weaving of a tale than the gracefully brutal exhumation of a culture on the wane.
Jogn Updike: March 18, 1932 – January 27, 2009
Here is the link to the NYTimes obit.
Posted by madeleine at Wednesday, January 28, 2009