Rabbit, Run gets all the attention, and Rabbit Is Rich and Rabbit at Rest earned Pulitzer Prizes. But Guardian writer Robert McCrum says Rabbit Redux is his favorite—which is why he included it at #88 on his list of “The 100 Best Novels.”
“Harry ‘Rabbit’ Angstrom, the account of whose life and times adds up to more than half a million words, is often placed with honor, and a measure of irony, next to America’s great literary protagonists such as Huck Finn, Jay Gatsby and even Captain Ahab,” McCrum writes. “Rabbit Redux was published in the US by Alfred A Knopf, a great literary house and a natural home for a novel that, from the title down, nodded to the Anglo-American literary tradition. Anthony Trollope (see No 22 in this series) published Phineas Redux in 1873, and Updike, who was steeped in English literature, would have enjoyed the allusion. Other critics have noted its ‘Dickensian’ ambitions.
“The Angstrom series had many inspirations, including Sinclair Lewis’s Babbitt. Updike, who also venerated Lewis, always spoke warmly about his admiration for Marcel Proust, though ‘Rabbit’ has little to do, explicitly, with A la Recherche du Temps Perdu. Ian McEwan [who, summarising Updike’s achievement on his untimely death in 2009, compared him to Saul Bellow (see No 73 in this series) as ‘a master of effortless motion—between first and third person, from the metaphorical density of literary prose to the demotic, from specific detail to wide generalization, from the actual to the numinous, from the scary to the comic’] described Updike’s ‘Rabbit’ novels as his ‘masterpiece.’ Philip Roth, a sometime writer, declared Updike to be America’s ‘greatest man of letters, a national treasure,’ while, for Lorrie Moore, Updike is ‘our greatest writer,’ though she prefers his short stories.”