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.
John Updike was the author of more than sixty books, including collections of short stories, poems, and criticism. His novels have been honored with the Pulitzer Prize (twice), the National Book Award, and the Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Hugging the Shore, an earlier collection of essays and reviews, received the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. He died in January 2009.
“[John] Updike’s most delightful book . . . Truly entertaining.”—Harper’s
“Updike has written his most appealing [work].”—The Boston Sunday Globe
“Bech succeeds marvelously. . . . One falls into the book and through it and out the other side of it as effortlessly as one might slide through a polished aluminum table in a funhouse. . . . A deft poke at what it means to be a writer in America.”—The New York Times