An American Elegy

When a writer lives with and writes about a character in four books and for more than thirty years, as John Updike has done with Harry ("Rabbit") Angstrom—central character of Rabbit at Rest and of the quartet that began with Rabbit, Run in 1960—author and character get to know each other, strengths and weaknesses, good habits and bad, like an old married couple. Like old feet easy and comfortable in an old pair of shoes. Updike and Angstrom always shared some particular things—a Pennsylvania home and a feeling for it, a fine-tuned and alert sense of perception, a heightened sensitivity to persons, places, and things that easily transcended the differences between their vocabulary and education and experience. Some of these differences . . . Angstrom was an outstanding highschool athlete, a basketball star some of whose feats have been remembered for a generation. One reads, here and there, that Updike shoots a little golf (so does Angstrom, as it happens) and both in print and by the twitching grapevine one is told that Updike is a country fair golfer. But nobody that I know of has ever yet singled out and identified John Updike as a jock. Nevertheless it needs to be said that some of the best writing in Rabbit at Rest, lively, energetic writing, concerns Angstrom shooting golf and playing basketball (in memory and in the presence); and Updike writes with equal authority and authenticity...

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