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The 15-Minute Pulitzer: Maximized mundanity amid minimal marks of appropriate punctuation

by Craig B | May 08, 2018

Book Review: John Updikes's winner of the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Rabbit is Rich

cover for John Updike's novel, Rabbit is RichI made a note to myself on my new smartphone (which is a very old smartphone, inherited from my wife from when she upgraded, also my first smartphone, kind of like this is my first Updike novel which makes me feel a bit ashamed … I guess you can’t read living authors in college, right?)  while reading John Updike’s 1982 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction win, Rabbit is Rich, that the book is full of “good, terrible news.”  Now, weeks later, I’m not sure exactly what I meant by that, but let me dip into the stream of my consciousness a bit, oh that’s right, for me there was something burdensome about Rabbit’s richness or maybe it was details like Rabbit noting that his wife’s infidelity had made her a “niftier person.”  Kind of good, kind of terrible news, and, honestly, quite fascinating reading.

My wife says Pennsylvania is God’s Country and on my last visit I started to see what she was talking about and one can tell Updike really was from there; he’s got a feel for the layout, the jolly vibe that everything really terrible in Pennsylvania happened a while ago, and in the book, to back this kind of random claim up, there is no actual tragedy, though there are a couple of moments… well, I’ll just leave it at that.  I think perhaps this is all by design.  As Updike himself said of his writing, he attempted "to give the mundane its beautiful due.”  Okay, but there’s also something of the farce here, which doesn’t necessarily ring any less true to my experience of life, and so, I’m looking forward to reading Rabbit at Rest.  I’m not sure I want to go back and read the other Rabbit novels, at least not right away, you know, because, so much of the tension of Rabbit is Rich comes from what we don’t know and if we resolve the mystery aren’t we just left with the mundane?  Of course, in the end, that may be all we need, at least from the gifted hands of a writer like Updike.

Craig B author Craig B is a thirty-something lover of books, movies, and rock and roll whose grandmother still worries that he might not be eating enough. (Love you, Grandma!) He lives with his charming wife in the small town of Berne, IN (in sight of the clock tower) where he busies himself keeping the Roses of Sharon in check and training his chinchilla in the ancient arts of the Ninja. Craig’s current favorite book is Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann.

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