A previous chapter, "Extravagant Fictions," which surveyed Updike's novels over the ten years from 1978 ( The Coup) to 1988 (S), notably omitted his longest and happiest — certainly his most celebrated — work from that period, Rabbit Is Rich ( 1981). The third volume in what would be the Angstrom tetralogy won all three of the big literary prizes for that year — the Pulitzer, the National (then called American) Book Award, and the National Book Critics' Circle; it also received the most unanimously approving critical response of any book Updike had published. Treating it here with its successor, Rabbit at Rest ( 1990), makes sense inasmuch as the two books are continuous, stylistically and tonally, in ways that distinguish them from both Rabbit, Run and Rabbit Redux. Their mood is comic-elegiac, their technique an extension of the "documentary" realism seen in Updike's earlier fiction, and their treatment of American society and culture — no longer the heated, contested, and overtly dangerous society it was in Rabbit Redux — is resigned and accepting, if ironically so. A lot of time seems to have passed, and suddenly it is too late to do much, if anything, about either society in the large or the individual life of one of its aging citizens. Rabbit rich and at rest: the words carry with them, when played out in the action of the novels, an acquiescent, helpless complicity with the world's ways and with human limitation generally.
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Publication information: Book title: Updike:America's Man of Letters. Contributors: William H. Pritchard - Author. Publisher: Steerforth Press. Place of publication: South Royalton, VT. Publication year: 2000. Page number: 277.
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