I’m about to go visit Harry Angstrom. I met Harry quite accidentally in the middle of the Rabbit series. I fell in love/hate with him from the beginning, had to read backwards and then forwards and wait (!) for the last volume. I wasn’t prepared, but those four books—Rabbit, Run (1960), Rabbit Redux (1971), Rabbit Is Rich (1981) and Rabbit at Rest (1990)—blew the lid off my parents’ generation for me. I mostly hated my parents’ generation. The hypocrisy, self-indulgence framed as righteousness, sexism, and narcissism.
As you’ve heard, John Updike just died, at age 76. Since hearing of his death, I have had a need to go find Harry. I’m going to start with Licks of Love, which includes the sequel, Rabbit Remembered. I went to buy the Rabbit books today but decided to start at the end and work backwards. This is a round about way of getting to Harry, but I want to rewind him like Benjamin Button from the end to the beginning. So I will begin with his remembrance and end with Updike’s first introduction of Harry to the world.
While finding the publication dates for this post, I was surprised to find that Harry is 55 years old at the start of the fourth volume. I am 55 years old. Since it’s been at least 25 years since I found Updike, this time I will meet Harry as my contemporary instead of an irritating, yet strangely sympathetic, father figure. By rewinding his life, I may find some insight into the men in my life—father, uncles, grandfather—that pushed me aside as just a girl, and, like the secret society they were, kept the keys to money and power in their pocket.
Updike’s Harry is still in my heart, and my anger at him (and men like him) is still in my art.