In this follow-up to Bech: A Book, Henry Bech, the priapic, peripatetic, and unproductive Jewish American novelist, returns with seven more chapters from his mock-heroic life. He turns fifty in a confusing blend of civic and erotic circumstances while publicizing himself in Australia and Canada. He marries a shiksa and travels with her to Israel, where she falls in love with the land, and to Scotland, where he does. And—sweating buckets! thinking big! minting miracles!—he writes an ingeniously tawdry bestseller. Bech’s aesthetic and moral embarrassments reveal acid truths about both his trade and our times.
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.
“Bech is back all right, but only after paying a large and painful price. . . . Updike reflects in these pages on the odd and unsettling ways in which art can impinge upon life, the ways in which a book acquires a life of its own that seems wholly unrelated to that of the person who created it, the ways in which celebrity separates those upon whom it is bestowed from reality.”—The Washington Post “Mr. Updike finds full scope for his gifts here: for sly and cheerfully malicious pensées on contemporary literary life; for busy observations on human behavior.”—The New Yorker