Surprised by the Books I Dreaded Reading
There were two things I dreaded when I started reading through the Pulitzer fiction prize winner list—having to read more books in John Updike’s Rabbit series and getting through 1,000+ pages of Gone with the Wind.
As is sometimes the case, I ended up enjoying Gone with the Wind. It’s a fast-moving page turner (good thing at that length), that took me only about a week to finish. Definitely not the Great American novel, but I still give credit where it’s due—Margaret Mitchell was a good story teller.
Reading the book in public, however, made me want an e-reader like no other. There’s something embarrassing about lugging around a Bible-sized copy of the book and pulling it out among other commuters. I shouldn’t care so much—commuters read a lot of drivel—but I was glad (and so was my poor back) when I returned it to the library.
As far as the story goes, it took my husband to make the connection between the dreadful books. I was near the end of Gone with the Wind and was complaining about how awful Scarlett O’Hara is and how she somehow simultaneously makes you want something terrible and decent to happen to her (she is the main character after all, it’s hard not to cheer for her). My husband said, “she’s like Rabbit?”
And she is like Rabbit Angstrom.
The books I dreaded most on the Pulitzer list had the two most dreadful characters. Harry Rabbit Angstrom is an arrogant, self-absorbed, sex-obsessed scoundrel. And Scarlett? Well—self-absorbed, vindictive and ungrateful.
I could be superficial about this and think that the characters are so terrible that the books themselves have no merit, but I recognize the fact that these authors could create such human characters that we all despise yet we still will read 1,000+ pages or 4 books in a series about them (and win awards as well) speaks volumes to their talent. I applaud you both, Mr. Updike and Ms. Mitchell.
(But I still won’t read the only remaining Rabbit book in the series that I skipped.)