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Bech: A Book (1970)

by John Updike

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Henry Bech Books (book 1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
472837,626 (3.49)4
The Jewish American novelist Henry Bech--procrastinating, libidinous, and tart-tongued, his reputation growing while his powers decline--made his first appearance in 1965, in John Updike's "The Bulgarian Poetess." That story won the O. Henry First Prize, and it and the six Bech adventures that followed make up this collection. "Bech is the writer in me," Updike once said, "creaking but lusty, battered but undiscourageable, fed on the blood of ink and the bread of white paper." As he trots the globe, promotes himself, and lurches from one woman's bed to another's, Bech views life with a blend of wonder and cynicism that will make followers of the lit-biz smile with delight and wince in recognition.… (more)

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» See also 4 mentions

English (7)  Swedish (1)  All languages (8)
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
I'm not sure how close to autobiographical Bech is to Updike. I image there's some interchange and it's intentional, but I'm not an Updike scholar, so I won't go too far out on that limb. I'm willing to bet however, that when Bech came out, it was something that ruffled the feathers of polite society even if it would be considered tame today.

The book is funny in a non laugh-out-loud way. It's Updike, so the writing is brilliant as I expected, but I wasn't too enthralled with the story of a middle-aged writer, past the prime of his art, and his exploration of the world only open through his past success. It was alright. However, there were three different passages that made the entire book worth reading. If you plan on reading it, don't read further here. If you don't and you're curious, here you go:

Talking about one of his soon-to-be mistresses:
"He was on the dark side of the earth in a cab with a creature whose dress held dozens of small mirrors. Her legs were white like knives, crossed and recrossed. A triangular bit of punctuation where the thighs ended. The cab moved through empty streets, past wrought-iron gates inked onto the sky and granite museums frowning beneath the weight of their entablatures, across the bright loud gulch if Hyde Park Corner and Park Lane, into darker quieter streets."

"In short, one loses heart in the discovery that one is not being read. That the ability to read, and therefor to write, is being lost, along with the ability to listen, to see, to smell, and to breathe. That all the windows of the spirit are being nailed shut."

"And to think that all the efforts of his life--his preening, his lovemaking, his typing--boiled down to the attempt to displace a few sparks to bias a few circuits, within some random other scoops of jelly that would, in less time that it takes the Andreas Fault to shrug or the tail-tip star of Scorpio to crawl an inch across the map of Heaven, be utterly dissolved. The widest fame and most enduring excellence shrank to nothing in this perspective." ( )
  Sean191 | Nov 18, 2019 |
A passive character, aimless and blocked, Bech wanders the world of writers and literary fests without joy. The stories satirize literary chat and the airless world of writer's symposiums.
Bech is no match for Enderby.
  ivanfranko | Mar 16, 2016 |
A rescued book, from the "Kantoorpaleis" Moem had to move out of. The books needed new homes, new readers and this one ended up with me. :-)
  BoekenTrol71 | Mar 31, 2013 |
John Updike really, really had a way with words, and this book is no exception to such examples of his writing. "his scraped heart flinched" really stuck with me. While I did enjoy this volume (first published 1970), it is a short-story collection, all of which centers around a fictional author, Henry Bech. I am more a fan of the novel form than short stories, hence this mid-rating. ( )
  ValerieAndBooks | May 8, 2012 |
Portrait d'un romancier juif de 67 ans, alter ego, et fantasme privilégié d'Updike. Un roman spirituel qui constitue également une bonne description de l'artiste américain, Blanc, protestant, anxieux, et cultivant 'l'ironie en circuit fermé' (cf. l'avant-propos, p. 7-10).
  PierreYvesMERCIER | Feb 19, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Tras una novela de éxito, la carrera de Henry Bech, escritor norteamericano entrado en la cuarentena, comienza a languidecer. Ahora, mediada la atribulada década de los años sesenta, para huir de la parálisis creativa, acepta participar en unos «intercambios culturales» promovidos por el Departamento de Estado que lo llevarán a Rusia, Rumania o Bulgaria, cuando el Telón todavía era de acero. Pero ni las bondades del deshielo soviético ni la sucesión de esperpénticos encuentros –un choque de civilizaciones avant la lettre, con hilarantes confusiones por problemas de traducción o equívocos en los flirteos– consiguen sacarlo de su embotamiento. Como tampoco le ayudarán mucho los incidentes que salpican su vida de vuelta a Occidente: desde una visita al Londres más chic de la década prodigiosa a unas conferencias en una universidad femenina del profundo Sur o los vaivenes sentimentales en su amada Nueva York.
added by Pakoniet | editLecturalia
 

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Updikeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hoog, ElseTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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The Jewish American novelist Henry Bech--procrastinating, libidinous, and tart-tongued, his reputation growing while his powers decline--made his first appearance in 1965, in John Updike's "The Bulgarian Poetess." That story won the O. Henry First Prize, and it and the six Bech adventures that followed make up this collection. "Bech is the writer in me," Updike once said, "creaking but lusty, battered but undiscourageable, fed on the blood of ink and the bread of white paper." As he trots the globe, promotes himself, and lurches from one woman's bed to another's, Bech views life with a blend of wonder and cynicism that will make followers of the lit-biz smile with delight and wince in recognition.

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