“Harry wonders if they’ll make cunt flavored ice cream?”
After I listened to Rabbit Run, I immediately found Rabbit Redux and listened, (I have a two hour commute by car) on audio cassette (not the ideal format, FYI). Redux is a book of it’s time, and is antiquated socially, but it is so right on about how a man feels and feels he must act, that it’s hard not to drive through the suburbs of New Jersey and see what Updike is talking about on every corner. Redux is a sad story, like Run, people die, characters you love, and pain is spread wide and far, but Updike’s God like attention to detail, the world that God has made at least, is so severe, so thorough, that I find my self taking breaks in the middle of the chapters I’m listening to just to absorb what it is I’ve just heard. In Rich, Rabbit is back, (where else would he go? In Run, he tried to leave, but only got as far as West Virginia) and working in sales at the family car dealership. The quote at the start of this post, (I’m paraphrasing, as I’ve said this quote to myself so many times over the last week since I heard it that I forget exactly) is something that applies to Updike’s belief that Harry must describe in sordid detail all the things he desires in a woman, the taste, smell, shape, and sometimes relating what he sees to fruit, and sometimes to the physical landscape. In Rich, Harry is visited at his dealership by a young woman and what he thinks is her boyfriend (predatory impulses rear up immediately for Harry), and he takes them for a test drive in the latest Toyota he’s bound and determined to sell. Harry’s eyes wander to the jail bait, and he imagines what her vagina tastes like, what the area between her breast and her stomach looks like, describing its whiteness, obviously these musings seem to be how Harry gets through his days, but it certainly titillates. It turns out the girl is his daughter from an infidelity he had in Redux, but I started to think, why would Updike put this in the story, especially at the start, if it didn’t have something to do with the overall narrative, turns out it did.
Updike’s talents are well documented, and I’m sure everyone reading this had read at least some of these books, so I’m not giving much away at this point. Right now I’m moving patiently through Nelson’s wedding, as Harry realizes that he’s just the hired help in the family business he’s not going to inherit, and I’m wondering just how Harry will end up? Harry’s appetite for fairness or at least what he thinks is fair, means that he not fire his friend Charlie, (who in Run, slept with Harry’s wife) and it turns out he won’t have to, because Ma Springer and Harry’s wife, Janice, are going to do it for him, and insert Nelson in Charlie’s place. (Harry and Nelson don’t get along, Harry’s been a bastard to his son, and in all fairness, during the climax of Redux, Harry couldn’t give two shits about Nelson). Harry doesn’t think this is right, and any decision Harry doesn’t make himself, whether it is a decision that affects him, or others, is a decision he despises, and moans about endlessly. All this makes for a very interesting back and forth between a man who thinks he’s in charge, (and in the times he lives in, should be in charge), and a group of women who are running his life. Rich is set in 1979, and they had a gas shortage, and women could vote, right?
Updike sets the table for a wicked experience with these books, and at the writing of this post, Harry is examining the pornographic photos of his neighbors that he’s found while rummaging through their dresser drawers. Harry went to take a piss, “golden champagne bubbles emerge on the surface,” in the host’s upstairs bathroom (Harry and Janice are attending a cocktail party), which is in the master bedroom. Harry notices the sheets have been hastily pulled up, the bed barley tidy, and he imagines the bed having just been used for fucking, and then he snoops into a dresser and finds what for Harry must be the arc of the covenant, naked pictures of the host’s who are downstairs, a woman he was just talking to, the couple that invited Harry and Janice into their home. Harry has trouble seeing the pictures because of the room’s darkness and the fact that he left his reading glasses at home. But he finally does focus and sees a picture of the man and woman in an act of fellatio, the picture is taken from the man’s point of view. Harry is impressed, let’s put it that way.
I wonder, is Updike God?