When I was a child, I was drawn to the knotty questions posed by Natalie Babbitt books:…
On this day I first met Rabbit, I was a high school junior enrolled in an honors English class, one of those self-designed lit courses where advanced students get to pick their own novels. My classmates chose such literary classics as The Outsiders, Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Love Story. For whatever reason, I picked up Rabbit, Run by some guy I’d never heard of before. Maybe I thought it was like that Watership Down book or maybe I was going through a Trix cereal phase….I don’t know.
I saw Homes as working through all this dense material, fighting to get out from under it. When Ashley and Nate, George’s privileged, abandoned kids, urge the adoption of Ricardo, the plump, dysfunctional survivor of George’s violence, Homes remarks that it’s the way with kids to think that everything can be made all right, that the damage that adults think is irreparable can be mended.
Both artist and bookseller stand at the vanguard of culture. Both struggle for something essentially impractical, unlucrative, and yet unspeakably necessary. Both have labored to build a life in accordance with a passionate vision. Both accumulate intangible rewards, usually in the absence of lower gratifications (prestige, affluence, vacations). Both are cursed and blessed to live in the conviction that what they do has relevance and worth in this world — to spend their days in service to something they love unreasonably and irredeemably.
It’s a special kind of reflection that Updike conjures, in which I alternately zoom in to see the scene as young Sammy, and pan out to proudly observe from the safety of my adulthood. It really doesn’t matter whether the girls pay Sammy any attention, or whether we know anything deep about him or any of the other characters – the moral to this short story is that standing up to fight the good fight is an unconditional action.
I suppose I was lucky. My father owned hundreds of books, many from his own childhood in a log cabin, raised by a former schoolteacher. Lucky insofar as my experience was the ideal breeding ground for a writer—a classic over-sensitive misfit, no good at sports, smartest kid in school—living in an isolated world of national forest, dirt roads, trickling creeks, and unemployed men with guns.