Books: New releases and Updike

Can a book beat you up? I’ll carry the psychic bruises from John Updike’s “Rabbit, Redux” for a long, long time.

I’m not complaining! I’d rather go for a wild ride than slog through some of the fiction I waded into this summer. I brought a stack to my favorite reading spot, a dock beside a lake in Quebec. (No Kindle, or Nook, or Ipad. Books.)

First up: “Super Sad True Love Story,” by Gary Shteyngart. It sports a terrific neon cover, and people kept coming by, asking about my read. Set in the near future, it was certainly provocative. But it wasn’t super or sad and the love story was icky, lame, and creepy.

Next I turned to Ann Beattie’s “Walks with Men,” a novella set in 1980s lower Manhattan. Its premise intoxicates: a young woman writer is taken in, Svengali-like, by an older man, also a writer. Whatever he tells her to do, she must do. I wish I could tell you his guidance is naughty, or illegal, or even memorable. “Invest in Disney. Screen calls. Learn to do cartwheels.” I’d like the hour I spent reading, and $10 plus shipping, returned to me.

Then I tried “The Ten Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet,” by David Mitchell. It got rave reviews! Indeed, on the back cover it says “difficult to put down.” I had no trouble, at page 99, putting this one down. Too many characters and situations. Confusing.

My new picks were disappointing, so I went backwards. I’d brought Updike’s “Rabbit, Redux” (1971) and from its first sentence, I was sucked in. “Men emerge pale from the little printing plant at four sharp, ghosts for an instant, blinking…”

It’s the second in a series that begins with “Rabbit, Run” (1960), a funny, smart, sexy and unbearably sad tale. “Redux” picks up with the same characters ten years later.

Harry Angstrom — Rabbit — is paunchy, mean and unpredictable. When he figures out his wife is having an affair, he insists she move in with her lover. When a teenage runaway follows him home, he takes her in, and later, lets her black drug-dealing boyfriend move in, too. Also at home is Harry’s 12-year old son Nelson, hurt and confused by his parents’ separation and besotted with Jill, the teen runaway.

The neighbors don’t like this domestic arrangement, and warn Harry. His belligerence, their actions: stunning.

The blacksploitation passages become tiresome, but the rest of “Rabbit, Redux” is a rich portrait of the era, and a heartbreaking read. It’s a must, an American masterpiece.

Also in the blog

My husband’s family have been members at Pythonga since the early 70′s. Every year I invariably pack more books than clothes and still can manage to run out of things to read! You have to have the “boat book”, something if it gets wet, no big deal. Then the “porch book” and “beach book” and


  We took our daughter Alex on a college tour that began in Berkeley and ended in New Orleans, with stops in between in Austin and Houston. Along with the touring, we did a lot of good eating. Here’s a report. Our host in Berkeley did all the cooking (thank you, Carl!) so I have


I’m stealing this subject line from David Lebovitz, the funny, smart, worldly blogger who writes from Paris about life and food and cooking and things in France and other places. http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2013/02/things-im-liking/ He’s liking small cassoulet bowls, a variety of oils, buckwheat cookies… Here in Chicago I’m liking the service — from booking the reservation to


6 thoughts on "Books: New releases and Updike"

  • Josephine says:

    Books new releases and updike.. May I repost it? 🙂

  • Books new releases and updike.. Tiptop 🙂

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