When we first met him in Rabbit, Run (1960), the book that established John Updike as a major novelist, Harry (Rabbit) Angstrom is playing basketball with some boys in an alley in Pennsylvania during the tail end of the Eisenhower era, reliving for a moment his past as a star high school athlete. Athleticism of a different sort is on display throughout these four magnificent novels—the athleticism of an imagination possessed of the ability to lay bare, with a seemingly effortless animal grace, the enchantments and disenchantments of life.
Updike revisited his hero toward the end of each of the following decades in the second half of this American century; and in each of the subsequent novels, as Rabbit, his wife, Janice, his son, Nelson, and the people around them grow, these characters take on the lineaments of our common existence. In prose that is one of the glories of contemporary literature, Updike has chronicled the frustrations and ambiguous triumphs, the longuers, the loves and frenzies, the betrayals and reconciliations of our era. He has given us our representative American story.
This Rabbit Angstrom volume is comprised of the following novels: Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; Rabbit is Rich; and Rabbit at Rest.
About John Updike
John Updike was the author of more than sixty books, including collections of short stories, poems, and criticism. His novels have been honored with the Pulitzer Prize (twice), the National Book Award, and the Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Hugging the Shore, an earlier collection of essays and reviews, received the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. He died in January 2009.
The United States, democratic and various though it is, is not an easy country for a fiction-writer to enter: the slot between the fantastic and the drab seems too narrow. An outsiderish literary stance is traditional; such masterpieces as Moby-Dick and Huckleberry Finn deal with marginal situations and eccentric, rootless characters; many American writers have gone into exile to find subjects of a congenial color and dignity. The puritanism and practicality of the early settlers imposed a certain enigmatic dullness, it may be, upon the nation's
affective life and social texture. The minimization of class distinctions suppressed one of the articulating elements of European fiction, and a close, delighted grasp of the psychology of sexual relations -so important in French and English novels - came slowly amid the New World's austerities. Insofar as a writer can take an external view of his own work, my impression is that the character of Harry 'Rabbit' Angstrom was for me a way in - a ticket to the America all around me. What I saw through Rabbit's eyes was more worth telling than what I saw through my own, though the difference was often slight; his life, less defended and logocentric than my own, went places mine could not. As a phantom of my imagination, he was always, as the contemporary expression has it, there for me, willing to generate imagery and motion. He kept alive my native sense of wonder and hazard.
FROM THE INTRODUCTION BY THE AUTHOR written especially for this edition:
“The character of Harry 'Rabbit' Angstrom was for me a way in-a ticket to the America all around me … [These four related novels] became a kind of running report on the state of my hero and his nation . . . A some point between the second and third of the series, I began to visualize four completed novels that might together make a single coherent volume, a mega-novel. Now, thanks to Everyman's Library, this volume exists, titled, as I had long hoped, with the name of the protagonist, an everyman who, like all men, was unique and mortal.”
“Taken together, this quartet of novels has given its readers a wonderfully vivid portrait of one Harry (Rabbit) Angstrom . . . The books have also created a Kodachrome-sharp picture of American life . . . from the somnolent 50s . . . into the uncertainties of the 80s.”
—THE NEW YORK TIMES
“The being that most illuminates the Rabbit quartet is not finally Harry Angstrom himself but the world through which he moves in his slow downward slide, meticulously recorded by one of the most gifted American realists . . . The Rabbit novels, for all their grittiness, constitute John Updike's surpassingly eloquent valentine to his country.”
—Joyce Carol Oates, THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW