Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Jack Riggs on 'Rabbit, Run'

Posted By on Wed, Dec 2, 2009 at 2:00 PM

When A Cappella Books turns 20 this month, a group of local authors will discuss their favorite works during a two-day marathon schedule. Jack Riggs, author of The Fireman's Wife, chose Rabbit, Run by John Updike.

"I have always loved John Updike. I discovered him reading Rabbit is Rich. Once I finished that one, I went back are read Rabbit, Run and Rabbit Redux. At first, I loved the irreverence of Rabbit Angstrom and how Updike placed him so richly in the geography of the times.  A reviewer once noted that if you wanted to understand the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s then all you had to do was read the Rabbit tetrology. Updike’s geography was always exact and could elicit a perfect sense of place and time.  His characters fit where they were and you understood them in part by that complete sense of place.

"On a more personal level, I came to understand Updike even more when I went back to school to get my MFA. Rabbit at Rest came out that year, I think, and I actually took a class that was looking at the Rabbit Tetrology. Studying Updike, and especially studying Rabbit, Run, I learned not only about a sense of place, but also a theology that I have used throughout my own work.  I love the struggle that Rabbit is going through. I love Updike’s idea of grace and how we need to be looking for it at all times. I love his idea of God as “wholly other,” a Karl Barthian idea.  It’s what gets Updike and Rabbit Angstrom in trouble sometimes.  People look at Rabbit and see a womanizing slacker who never amounted to anything after high school, a real Al Bundy kind of guy. But that’s completely wrong. Rabbit is a man on the road, someone who is trying to find answers no matter the cost. He has his eyes on the prize, that feeling he wants back, that moment of grace that came to him when  he set a B-League scoring record as a senior, '...after you’re first-rate at something, no matter what, it kind of takes the kick out of being second-rate.'  He understands without words or the ability to communicate his thoughts that he needs to find that moment of grace again if he is to understand his existence on this earth.

"I have always been intrigued by the journey and how we have moments along the road that can be seen and responded to or can be left as a piece of litter, unnoticed and ignored. I like that idea, and I try to have a sense of that 'grace struggle' in all my work. It is because of John Updike that I do this."

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