The Complete Henry Bech

Overview

Since tales of his exploits began appearing in The New Yorker more than thirty years ago, Henry Bech, John Updike's playfully irreverent alter-ego, has charmed readers with his aesthetic dithering and his seemingly inexhaustible libido. The Bech stories—collected in one volume for the first time, and featuring a final, series-capping story, "His Oeuvre"—cast an affectionate eye on the famously unproductive Jewish-American writer, offering up a stream of wit, whimsy, and lyric ...

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Overview

Since tales of his exploits began appearing in The New Yorker more than thirty years ago, Henry Bech, John Updike's playfully irreverent alter-ego, has charmed readers with his aesthetic dithering and his seemingly inexhaustible libido. The Bech stories—collected in one volume for the first time, and featuring a final, series-capping story, "His Oeuvre"—cast an affectionate eye on the famously unproductive Jewish-American writer, offering up a stream of wit, whimsy, and lyric pungency unmatched in American letters.

From his birth in 1923 to his belated paternity and public apotheosis as a spry septuagenarian in 1999, Bech plugs away, globetrotting in the company of foreign dignitaries one day and schlepping in tattered tweeds on the college lecture circuit the next. By turns cynical and naïve, wry and avuncular, and always amorous, he is Updike’s most endearing confection—a Lothario, a curmudgeon, and a winsome literary icon all in one. A perfect forum for Updike's limber prose, The Complete Henry Bech is an arch portrait of the literary life in America from an incomparable American writer.

(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)
 

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A deft poke at what it means to be a writer in America." —New York Times

"In his extraordinarily productive career, John Updike has given us a multitude of memorable characters, but none more lovable than the high-minded, mild-mannered, rather hapless writer Henry Bech." —Chicago Tribune

"One of Updike’s best creations." —Life

"Bech is Updike’s alter ego, a mouthpiece for Updike’s often sarcastic, even caustic insight into writers and the writing life … [His] style is never more jubilantly elaborate than in a Bech book, and his intelligence never more provocatively displayed." —Booklist

"As imaginative territory, literary Manhattan has proved irresistible to Updike the satirist, and he has done it full justice and then some in his volumes of stories concerning the doings of New York novelist Henry Bech." —The New Criterion

"A mordantly comic look at literary life." —TIME

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Never as big as Rabbit, but a genial antihero in his own right, Henry Bech is John Updike's fictional alter ego, a Jewish writer with a weakness for women and literary awards. Now, three bestselling collections of Bech stories are gathered in one volume, under the title The Complete Henry Bech. Book-ended with a helpful introduction by Malcolm Bradbury and a new story, "His Oeuvre," the hefty Everyman's Library compendium is a monument to Updike's lighter moments. ( Mar. 27) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From The Critics
Tales of John Updike's playful alter ago began appearing over thirty years ago in The New Yorker: in The Complete Henry Bech they have been gathered under one cover for the first time, providing a complete and unified set of vignettes and stories about Bech, a man who is a cynical, yet spry, globetrotter filled with observations about the world. An excellent collection.
Kirkus Reviews
An attractive summary volume brings together the contents of Updike's three earlier collections of tales about the literary and amorous exploits and embarrassments of his "other" alter ego (the obverse of Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom): the unproductive, easily distracted American-Jewish novelist (and improbably Nobel laureate) Henry Bech. It's prefaced by fellow novelist-critic Malcolm Bradbury's incisive Introduction, and ends with the previously uncollected "His Oeuvre," a story depicting the elderly Bech on a reading tour during which he reencounters and/or remembers the parade of lovers who, he now realizes, "were . . . [his] masterpieces." It's a curious, though not inappropriate coda to a richly amusing extended work that surveys the contemporary American literary landscape with piercing wit. A goldmine for future Updike scholars.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375411762
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/27/2001
  • Series: Everyman's Library
  • Pages: 544
  • Sales rank: 596,707
  • Product dimensions: 5.28 (w) x 8.33 (h) x 1.18 (d)

Meet the Author

John Updike was born in 1932, in Shillington, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Harvard College in 1954, and spent a year in Oxford, England, at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. From 1955 to 1957 he was a member of the staff of The New Yorker. He was the author of more than fifty books, including collections of short stories, poems, essays, and criticism. His novels have won the Pulitzer Prize (twice), the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Rosenthal Award, and the Howells Medal. He died in 2009.

Biography

With an uncommonly varied oeuvre that includes poetry, criticism, essays, short stories, and novels, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner John Updike helped to change the face of late-20th-century American literature.

Born in Reading, Pennsylvania, Updike graduated summa cum laude from Harvard in 1954. Following a year of study in England, he joined the staff of The New Yorker, establishing a relationship with the magazine that continued until his death in January, 2009. For more than 50 years, he lived in two small towns in Massachusetts that inspired the settings for several of his stories.

In 1958, Updike's first collection of poetry was published. A year later, he made his fiction debut with The Poorhouse Fair. But it was his second novel, 1960's Rabbit, Run, that forged his reputation and introduced one of the most memorable characters in American fiction. Former small-town basketball star Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom struck a responsive chord with readers and critics alike and catapulted Updike into the literary stratosphere.

Updike would revisit Angstrom in 1971, 1981, and 1990, chronicling his hapless protagonist's jittery journey into undistinguished middle age in three melancholy bestsellers: Rabbit Redux, Rabbit Is Rich, and Rabbit at Rest. A concluding novella, "Rabbit Remembered," appeared in the 2001 story collection Licks of Love.

Although autobiographical elements appear in the Rabbit books, Updike's true literary alter ego was not Harry Angstrom but Harry Bech, a famously unproductive Jewish-American writer who starred in his own story cycle. In between -- indeed, far beyond -- his successful series, Updike went on to produce an astonishingly diverse string of novels. In addition, his criticism and short fiction became popular staples of distinguished literary publications.

Good To Know

Updike first became entranced by reading when he was a young boy growing up on an isolated farm in Pennsylvania. Afflicted with psoriasis and a stammer, he escaped his self-consciousness by immersing himself in drawing, writing, and reading.

An accomplished artist, Updike accepted a one-year fellowship to study painting at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Arts at Oxford University. He decided to attend Harvard University because he was a big fan of the school's humor magazine, The Harvard Lampoon.

One of the most respected authors of the 20th century, Updike won every major literary prize in America, including the Guggenheim Fellow, the Rosenthal Award, the National Book Award in Fiction, the O. Henry Prize, the American Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Union League Club Abraham Lincoln Award, the National Arts Club Medal of Honor, and the National Medal of the Arts.

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    1. Also Known As:
      John Hoyer Updike (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      March 18, 1932
    2. Place of Birth:
      Shillington, Pennsylvania
    1. Date of Death:
      January 27, 2009
    2. Place of Death:
      Beverly Farms, MA

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