Updike, John: Rabbit Redux
(researched by Brandon Wilkerson)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description

1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)

Borzoi Book, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. on November 15, 1971 Copyright (c)1971 by John Updike Published simultaneously in New York and Toronto, Canada (by Random House of Canada Limited) Distributed by Random House, Inc., New York Portions of the book's first chapter first appeared in Esquire and The Atlantic
Source: First Edition from Clemons Library

2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?

In red cloth, the title embossed in gold on the front.
Source: First Edition from Clemons

3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available

4 Pagination

Numbered 3-406, numbers appearing inbetween colons in the bottom center of each page -- :232: Final page is unnumbered(six lines of text)
Source: First Edition from Clemons

5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?


6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?


7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available

8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)

The art on the dust jacket recalls the unusual palatte of 1970's America -- loud stripes and a hanging, cratered moon The text is well printed and readable, spaced well
Source: First Edition, original binding, from the Taylor Collection

9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available

10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)

27 years seems to have affected the paper very little -- it is likely of very high quality, as Rabbit Redux was a much anticipated sequal to Rabbit, Run.
Source: First Edition, Taylor Collection

11 Description of binding(s)

The original binding was done, according to a note in the back, by Kingsport Press of Kingsport, Tenn. The first edition held by Clemons has been rebound by glue.
Sources: First Editions, Clemons and Taylor Collection

12 Transcription of title page

John Updike [long thick line] RABBIT REDUX

[short thick line] [emblem of a running greyhound] Alfred A. Knopf New York 1971
Sources: First Editions, Clemons and Taylor Collection

13 JPEG image of title page, if available

14 Manuscript Holdings

A photocopy of the corrected typescript, signed by the author is held in a South Carolina Library
Source: WorldCat, Virgo database

15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)

A Note on the Type reads: The text of this book was set on the Linotype in Janson, a recutting made direct from type cast from matrices long thought to have been made by the Dutchman Anton Janson, who was a practicing type founder in Leipzig during the years 1668-87. However, it has been conclusively demonstrated that these types are actually the work of Nicholas Kis (1650-1702), a Hungarian, who most probably learned his trade from the master Dutch type founder Kirk Voskens. The type is an excellent example of the influential and sturdy Dutch types that prevailed in England up to the time William Caslon developed his own incomparable designs from these Dutch faces.
Also, Rabbit Redux is the sequal to Rabbit, Run, and second in a series of four books, all about Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom.
Sources:First Edition, Clemons and Virgo database

Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History

1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A

Knopf, Inc. in 1995 released an edition of Rabbit Redux in the complete tetralogy, otherwise, Knopf made no other editions.
Source: WorldCat, Books in Print

2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available

3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available

4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?

Three printings of first edition in November, 1971
Source: Clemons 1st Edition

5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A

Fawcett Publishing 71, 85, 86, 92, 96 (mostly paperbacks, some trade paperbacks) Penguin 95 (large print)
Source: WorldCat

6 Last date in print?

Last printed in 1996, still active
Source: WorldCat

7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)

Awaiting word from publisher Sold 74,850 copies through Nov 24 (printed Nov. 15)
Source: Publisher's Weekly (Dec. '71 Issue)

8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)

Awaiting word from publisher

9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)

In the Nov. 14, 1971 New York Times Book Review, a mock interview was staged between Henry Bech, the hero of Updike's novel preceding Rabbit Redux, and Updike himself.
Too lengthy to transcribe completely -- some choice excerpts: Q. How do you find reviews? A. Humiliating.
Q. I'd like to talk about the new book, but the truth is I can't hold bound galley pages, my thumbs keep going to sleep, so I didn't get too far into this, what? "Rabbit Rerun." A. (eagerly, pluggingly) Redux. Latin for led back.
Source: New York Times Book Review, Nov. 14, 1971 Sec. 7

10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available

11 Other promotion

Portions of 1st chapter printed in Esquire (Sept. 71 issue) and The Atlantic Esquire excerpt had an illustration, done by Walter Garbo
Sources: World Cat, Clemons 1st Edition

12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A

None Discovered, although Updike has read some of his short stories for audio recordings, he may have done this for Redux
Source: WorldCat

13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A

Numerous Italian: Il Ritorno do Coniglio: romanzo - Feltrinelli; Milan, 1972 Japanese: Kaetto Kita Usagi - Shinchosha; Tokyo, 1973 Polish: Prxypomnij Sie, Kroliku - Phantom Press; Gdansk, 1993 German: Unter dem Astronautenmond: Roman - Buchclub Ex Libris; Zurick, 1973 (Of interesting note: the title of the German translation, at least, is obviously very different from the English title of the book... Under the Astronauts, perhaps?) Danish: Rabbit Igen - Gyldendal; Haslev, 1972 Norwegian: Hare Hvorhen? - Gyldendal Norsk; Oslo, 1972 French: Rabbit Rattrape - Gallimard; Paris, 1973 Dutch: Rabit Redux: Roman - Meulonhoff; Amsterdam, 1973
Source: WorldCat

14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A

Although excerpts were printed in Esquire and The Atlantic, there was never any suggestion that it was to be serialized.
Source: WorldCat, Clemons 1st Edition

15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A

Rabbit, Run - Knopf; New York, 1960 (prequel) Rabbit is Rich - Knopf; New York, 1981 (sequel) Rabbit at Rest - Knopf; New York, 1990 (sequel)
Also: Rabbit Omnibus (first three novels) Deutsch Pub.; 1990 Rabbit Angstrom: A Tetralogy (the complete epic)- Knopf; New York, 1995
Sources: Books in Print, WorldCat

Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author

1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)

John Updike was born on March 18, 1932 in Shillington, Pa. (one source out of the four claims his birthplace as Reading, Pa., on the same date, but this may be county vs. town -- otherwise it doesn't seem to be a
matter of contention) to Linda and Wesley Updike. He attended public schools in the area, including Shillington High School, and eventually went on to Harvard University. One year before his graduation from Harvard in 1954, he was wed to Mary Penningto
n. He and Mary had three children together: David (b. 1957), Michael (b. 1959), and Miranda (b. 1960). The lived in Ipwich, Ma. together until 1974, when Updike separated from Mary and moved to Boston. He remarried in 1977, to Martha Bernhard. They ha
d no children together, and in 1982, moved to Beverly Farms, Ma., where they still reside.
Updike sold his first story in 1954. It was printed in the New Yorker (!), called "Friends from Philadelphia." This auspicious beginning was exactly that: a beginning. He went on to publish twenty-nine novels and collections of short stories, the lates
t being Toward the End of Time (1997). All of these works were published by Alfred Knopf, Inc., and, in fact, only his first book of poetry, The Carpentered Hen and other Tame Animals, was published by another company (Harper). Updike has also penned se
veral books of criticism, children's books, a memoirs, and one play, Buchanan Dying (1974). He is still living, and presumably, still active.
Updike, in one of the most recognized and richest American writing careers, has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors for his work. His first novel, even, The Poorhouse Fair, brought him the 1960 Rosenthal Foundation Award of the National Inst
itute of Arts and Letters. Following this, he was counted almost perennially in "Best" anthologies for short stories. In 1964, he won the National Book Award for the Centaur. The American Book Award is his in 1981, as well as the first of two Pulitzer
Prizes and of -three- National Book Critics Circle Awards, for Rabbit is Rich. This book's sequel, Rabbit at Rest, won the other Pulitzer and the third Critics Circle Award. Most recently, he won the Campion award for Toward the End of Time, and the Am
bassador Book Award for In the Beauty of the Lilies. All these impressive manuscripts are, most likely, in his possession.
Sources: Self-Consciousness, Updike's Memoirs John Updike: A study of the Short Fiction John Updike: A collection of critical Essays http://www.users.fast.net/~joyerkes

Assignment 4: Reception History

1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

In the months folowing Updike's publication of Rabbit Redux, reviews were abundent and, more often than not, quite favorable. Reviews appeared in America, Atlantic Monthly, Books and Bookmen, Booklist, Best Sellers, Book World, Christian Century, Carleton Miscellany, Christian Science Monitor, Choice, Commonweal, Economist - Survey (odd one), Guardian Weekly, Hudson Review, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, Life, Listener, National Observer, New Statesman, Newsweek, The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, Nation, The National Review, New Republic, Observer, Publisher's Weekly, Saturday Review, The Spectator, The Times Literary Supplement, Time, Virginia Quarterly Review, Village Voice, Wall Street Journal, and the Yale Review. Most reviewers emphasized the differences between it and its prequel, Rabbit, Run. Brendan Gill, writing for the New Yorker in early '72, called it "richer" and "more profound" than Run. He found Updike's style particularly laudable, writing "how fast his shuttle flies," and delighting in the "glints of gold in unexpected places." Like many accounts of the time, he chose not to emphasize the plot, which is called by several different magazines "intricate" and "complex," and even "well-programmed" by Time, but less noteworthy than the prose itself. R.Z. Sheppard, writing for Time in November of '71, compared Updike's method to that of "an experienced physician examining a naked patient." He added, too, that the book was "superior to recent novels that trudge after social significance." A similar sentiment was expressed by William B. Hill in America magazine two months later. He saw in the book "Updike's peculiar sensitivity to language." Melvin Maddocks offered, in a mid-November 1971 issue of Life, that Updike had "drawn a brilliant portrait of middle America," and went so far as to compare Updike to the Harlem Globetrotters, saying he was "all grace and dazzle." Maddocks chose Rabbit Redux as one of the Recommended works for the month of November. Paul Doherty, in a late '72 America Magazine, chose it as one of the Year's Best Buys in Paperbacks.

2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

Subsequent receptions were mostly prompted by the publication of the sequels Rabbit is Rich and Rabbit at Rest, as well as inclusion of Rabbit Redux in anthologies, such as the Rabbit Omnibus, which features the first three novels, and Rabbit Angstrom: A Tetralogy, which features all four novels. The one straight-out review I found after the initial boom tended to be less favorable than those in the early 70's, probably because of the novel's tight bindings to its era, the 60's. The reviewer also contrasted it to Updike's later works, which evolved to better fit the palate of the day. The review came in a 1991 issue of Commonweal, in which Rand Richards Cooper states that Updike's inclusionary style (praised as "glints of gold" in 72) goes "on and on and on, until at times Rabbit's overburdened life seems like the monomaniacal production of some idiot savant." Ouch. Although contemporary reviews almost invariable cited it's superiority to Run, the Commonweal said it "seems today the weakest of the Harry Angstrom Quartet, a lurid, confused novel in which the author stumbles off the thoroughfare of his hero's spiritual life into a series of dead ends." The social significance celebrated twenty years ago became "the work of an angry man who lets his main character do his tough-talking for him." Updike is said to be attempting to "browbeat us with politics." Beyond this Commonweal review, there is mostly commentary and essays. Modern Fiction Studies in Spring of 1991 published many synopses and analyses of the novel, but shied from critiquing it. The general notion today, I think, is that Rabbit Redux is a piece of literature.
Sources: Virgo, Book Review Index, America Magazine, Time, The New Yorker, Life, Commonweal, Modern Fiction Studies

Assignment 5: Critical Analysis

1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)

John Updike is a writer. He is a stylist. He has flair, he has language, he has imagination and voice. John Updike is a creator; he is a writer. He has, to his current publishing credit, penned multiple novel
s, short story anthologies, collections of essays, children's books, volumes of verse, a memoirs, and a play. Some of these even had high shelf velocity, were best sellers, that economic gauge of an author's hundred thousand words. Put another way, s
ome of these made John Updike a very rich writer. Among them is Rabbit Redux. Published in November of 1971, it enjoyed the acclaim that many of his previous novels did (as early as 1962 he had begun to be called the most gifted writer of his generation
), and weathered its share of criticism as many bestsellers do. It is a sequel, the second installment of a tetralogy that follows Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom through his adult life. Rabbit Redux, like all the tetralogy, is infused with contemporaneity, ine
xtricably tied and even motivated by the events of its time frame -- 1969. The novels were spaced roughly every ten years, and each details the essential and non-essential historical events which encircled the given era. Redux focuses, most specifically
, on the moon launch of ?69 (a cratered full moon is the only image on the striped cover of the first edition), but the Vietnam conflict, American racial turbulence, and the decade's severe political unrest are all laced into the story. Even the man-siz
ed paper boat that sailed, amusingly, from Iceland in 1969 is mentioned. The main characters of the story -- Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom, a former highschool basketball star, now a linotyper, Skeeter, a fugitive black revolutionary and over-all agitator, and
Jill, a waifish, somewhat oblivious New England 18-year-old runaway -- find their fates entangled, and feel their way through a few months of the era. Through these volatile personalities, Updike weaves language and writing that, while outstanding and e
ven lyrical, moves at times from being provocative to being altogether controversial. These most distinguishing elements of the novel -- quality of writing, a controversial tilt, an entanglement in the contemporary setting, and, finally, its recognizable
place in the tetralogy -- are what propelled it onto the bestsellers list. An examination of its popularity reveals certain things. Good writing, for one, does not go unnoticed. Updike's writing is no exception. Reviewers cluster into unanimity when they turn toward the actual quality of his prose. Suzanne Uphaus, in John
Updike, writes: "Most important, there is Updike's remarkable mastery of language. For example, Updike's descriptive power is based on a skillful use of particular detail and an unerring sense of wistful nostalgia. Often Updike seems to be stretching
the possibilities of the written word as far as they can go. (Pp. 1,2)" On page 76 of that same book, she writes, "it could be argued that Rabbit Redux is Updike's greatest imaginative achievement." There is power in his work, a means of writing that as
tonishes readers. His feel for the importance of the ordinary is unsurpassed; a sudden violence, for instance, that would be, to lesser writers, ineffable beyond its mere enaction is pieced together by Updike with almost alarming adeptness and acumen: "
In their bedroom, Rabbit carefully closes the door and in a soft shaking voice tells Jill, ?You're turning my kid into a beggar and a whore just like yourself,' and, after waiting a second for her to enter a rebuttal, slaps her thin disdainful face with
its prim lips and its green eyes drenched so dark in defiance their shade is as of tree leaves, a shuffling concealing multitude, a microscopic forest he wants to bomb. (Redux pg. 169)" This wordsmithery is abundant in the pages, occurring in every poss
ible scenario, suffusing thoughts and actions with an impressive lyricism. Glowing praise is also offered by George Steiner, as quoted by Donald Greiner: "John Updike has been an enviable problem. Gifted at once with a supremely alert ear and eye for th
e pulse and sinew of contemporary American speech and with a passion for the rare word, for the jeweled and baroque precisions still vital beneath and around the current of common idiom, he has been able to write about literally anything. (Updike's Nove
ls, pg. x)" Another key factor working for the popularity Redux is this precision of language, Updike's perspicacity as a writer somehow combined with his acuteness as a poet, being combined with a historical interiority and side plot of the late sixties themselves
. As Uphaus writes, "All the events of the novel occur against an omnipresent background of the specific historical events of the summer and fall of 1969. (Pg. 78)" Readers purchasing the novel in 1971 would find the immediacy of their own experience i
n its pages; the absorption of the book would carry vicariousness like few others. On page 11, Angstrom watches his father in a bar: "Pop stands whittled by the great American glare, squinting in the manna of blessings come down from the government, shuf
fling from side to side in nervous happiness that his day's work is done, that a beer is inside him, that Armstrong is above him, that the U.S. is the crown and stupefaction of human history." The book is immersed in its own time -- Angstom looks out u
pon the overarching patriotism inspired in the older generation by the moon launch, and then the disappointment and hurried skepticism of the young because of Vietnam: "we wouldn't be in this Vietnam mess if it was a white country. We wouldn't have gon
e in. We thought we just had to shout Boo and flash a few jazzy anti-personnel weapons. We thought it was one more Cherokee uprising. The trouble is, the Cherokees outnumber us now. (Redux pg. 49)" The varying ideas on current culture between characte
rs provides much of the tension and propulsion for the book, and because of these ideas' temporal proximity to the time of publication, they must have provided tension and propulsion for the readers, as well. Tension, however, is also created by the controversial nature of the novel. Still early in the wake of the civil rights movement, Updike sketches a "household" for Angstrom that included an 18-year-old runaway drug addict, a black revolutionary criminal
, a pre-adolescent boy, and a mid-thirties suburbanite linotyper. Many nights are spent with the adults smoking marijuana together in front of the boy, and bandying back and forth about the shoddiness of the state of American affairs. Equally as many ni
ghts are spent with darkly erotic encounters between Skeeter, the revolutionary, and Jill, the runaway, or a merely passive, but explicitly described foray into adultery between she and Angstrom. "?Your tongue between my toes,' she says; her voice crack
s timidly, issuing the command. When again he complies, she edges forward on the bed and spreads her legs. ?Now here.' (Redux Pg. 176)" It has long been apparent in the publishing world that what craft and writing ability will not bring as far as numb
ers of readers, explicit sexuality and objectionable content probably will. Redux is a sequel to Rabbit, Run, a book whose first page declares it "graphic and merciless" and "shocking" because of, among other reasons, its "sexual candor." The memory of
the mob is not impressive, but even before word spread that Redux was candid as well, it surely must have been anticipated. Only adding to this anticipation is the fact that Rabbit Redux followed his novel Couples, which was highly erotic, even called th
e "suburbanite entry in the porno pageant. (William Gass, as quoted by Macnaughton, pg. 11)" Redux is taboo, and as evinced by Peyton Place, that is enough to draw millions of readers, whether they be businessmen, housewives, or grade-schoolers reading u
nder a blanket with the flashlight. Taboo writing appeals to Americans, who guard their own indecency until it becomes a point of celebration, or at the very least, something worthy of spectacle. Clearly, Rabbit Redux had ample reason to become a bestseller. It basked in the glow of warm reviews, grabbed readers who sought both literature and things risque, and carried the well known names John Updike and Rabbit Angstrom. But it is not a widely
read book today. Many bestsellers drop off into obscurity, become replaced by the next million-seller, but Redux was almost fated to do so. It had no performances in the wider media, such as television or theater, for one. And, ironically, one of the
very things that helped boost its popularity in its own time, its historical interiority and contemporaneity, served to drag it to the dusty unread shelves of libraries. The immediacy of experience is lost today; the vicariousness cannot be regained ten,
twenty, and thirty years from the book's binding era. And because the plot is something almost dialectic, a grouping of the many thoughts and political diatribes of the characters, a reader nowadays has little to experience beyond the intellectual capa
city. The poor reviews at the time of publication often railed against this rambling, dialectic nature of the novel. Charles Samuels, in his review "Updike on the Present," wrote, "Updike remains too mute about questions of motivation to keep Rabbit Red
ux from having the dispiriting effect of a sordid story that is told to no clear purpose. (Macnaughton pg. 65)" Even in 1971, then, when the review appeared, there were readers who had trouble finding a thread within the novel. Readers in subsequent year
s were far more likely to be baffled by the loose plotting and absence of purpose. William Stafford, in "The Curious Greased Grace of John Updike," wrote "the novel is seen as being merely observant. In a word (or two), it is too coy, too cute, too ulti
mately empty. (Macnaughton pg. 68)" Critics who disliked the book asserted that Updike's peculiarly acute stylism with language was the only thing driving it. It was nothing but words. Even the closing of the novel provides no wrap-up, no accountabilit
y for the non-linear story. Updike wrote, "He. She. Sleeps. O.K.? (Redux, pg. 407)" The reader is entreated to make what he will of everything. Once removed from its cultural and historical context, how could such a book thrive? Redux came with its ow
n expiration date, in a way. Tying itself to the era forced it to bow out with the era. Rabbit Redux had its set reasons for being the tenth best seller of 1971 -- it exhibited the distinctly Updike quality and sensitivity of language, it sparked political and moral curiosity because of its graphic subject matter, and it provided a means of
looking at the contemporary world that readers could not find elsewhere, nor create for themselves. As Updike himself wrote in "Bombs Made Out of Leftovers," "What we want from fiction, and what fiction is increasingly loathe to give us, is vicarious ex
perience. (Greiner, pg. xiii)" But time deteriorates, and when an age passes, its moments become less and less recognizable. No movie was made to match the book, no television show about the further adventures of Rabbit Angstrom. Rabbit Redux, and all
the novels in the Rabbit Tetralogy, are works for their own time, for readers in their own specific time. The lack of purpose that characterizes the book, its emphasis on historical interiority, make it dated. Its obsolescence is inherent. Reviews both
good and bad, however, admitted to the remarkable ability of Updike to merely write. Whether his books are compartmentalized for a decade, and that decade only, becomes less significant in the face of the fact that it is literature. Updike understands
his canon, and he understands his audience; he created something that could be exact in its own time, translate the universe in the only way possible -- the moment. As Updike wrote in "Rememberance of Things Past Remembered," "For a book to be great in a
reader's life it is not enough for the book to be great; the reader must be ready. (Greiner, pg. xiii)" John Updike provided the greatness, and no reader can be more ready than when he is immersed, as the book was, in his own time.

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