Books: Desperate Weakling

RABBIT, RUN (307 pp.)—John Updike —Knopf ($4).

If the power to shock may be taken as a yardstick of fiction, John Updike, 28, has written one of the year's most important novels. Like last year's Poorhouse Fair, his new book is bitterly anchored in Thoreau's belief that most men lead lives of quiet desperation, but in this story, the restraining dam breaks to let loose such relentless despair as is seldom found in U.S. writing.

At the center of the crack-up is Harry ("Rabbit") Angstrom. In the small Pennsylvania suburb where he was born and...

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