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Bech at Bay (Bech)

3.74  ·  Rating Details ·  284 Ratings  ·  22 Reviews
In this, the final volume in John Updike’s mock-heroic trilogy about the Jewish American writer Henry Bech, our hero is older but scarcely wiser. Now in his seventies, he remains competitive, lecherous, and self-absorbed, lost in a brave new literary world where his books are hyped by Swiss-owned conglomerates, showcased in chain stores attached to espresso bars, and retur ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published October 5th 1999 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published October 13th 1998)
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Harold Griffin
Nov 09, 2009 Harold Griffin rated it really liked it
"Bech at Bay" is the last of Updike's Bech trilogy, tales of the life of his libidinous "Jewish" author-persona.

After three books, I still have not accepted Bech as a genuine, successfully-realized literary character, much less an authentic Jewish author. I'm still not sure why Updike chose to emphasize this character's Jewishness or supposed New York origins, except possibly to distance him from Updike's own persona, or out of envy of the New York Jewish intelligentsia.

That said, "Bech at Bay"
Feb 23, 2009 Eric rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ficciones
By far the best of the three Bech books. The seemingly obligatory travel sketch is mercifully short, and the rest of the book is amazing. It's been a long time since a book made me laugh this hard. Bech becomes president of an American Academy of Arts & Letters-like organization, where he presides over the bickerings of perfectly-rendered satirical portaits of senile eminence; is sued for libel by, and during the trial nurses a filial love for, an aging Hollywood mogul; murders (or induces t ...more
Oct 30, 2016 Jay rated it liked it
While the stories in the first Bech books were mostly about the blocked author’s tours of Eurpoean countries, in “Bech at Bay” we find the author in life events. Sure, the first story is another of his tours that seemed to focus on communist countries, but from there we cross into new territory – Bech is sued, Bech presides over a declining arts honorary, Bech revenges himself on his critics, and Bech deals with a Nobel. For readers from the first stories, these are not as expected, but they ill ...more
Mar 18, 2017 Ema rated it really liked it
This is my second books of Updike. I guess he is telling the truth about the world of literature
Feb 17, 2013 S. rated it really liked it
years before N-dubz declared beef wit enyc and 50 took on Cali sparking the West Coast-East Coast feud, the American literary world saw the battle of the new realists and the characterizers, viz. Tom Wolfe, Don DeLillo, Philip Roth, and this author, John UpDike, battling out their feuds, with perhaps Thomas Pynchon, Norman Mailer, and Truman Capote all forming shifting alliances, schools of thought, cliques of support and what not.

well, the 15 reviews that this Updike book has received more or l
Ron Charles
"Bech at Bay," Updike's third Bech book, contains five crisp short stories about the anxieties and desires of Henry Bech, the "moderately well-known Jewish American writer." Updike is as smart and witty here as ever.

In the first story, Bech travels to Communist Czechoslovakia to escape his collapsed personal life and deliver a lecture on "American Optimism." Showered with extravagant praise from Czech writers who have suffered torture and imprisonment, he's overwhelmed by the superficiality of h
Pamela Mclaren
This is a hard review to write. I've read John Updike's Rabbit, Run and I think I liked the book, even if I didn't always like the characters -- but for some reason I never posted a review of the book. So I grabbed this eagerly when I saw it and expected great things .... And the first segment, I mostly liked but I had a hard time keeping track of all that the author was writing about. And it got worse -- there were whole swatches where I couldn't make heads or tails about what Bech was doing, w ...more
Feb 05, 2011 Owen rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I suffered through this book solely to feel justified in writing a scathing review. why do creepy old writers give us characters that are creepy old writers who are incredible sexually successful in spite of age, looks, charm and paunch? Do they think we want to read about this? I found Bech to be my second lowest rated protagonist, barely squeezing by Leopold Bloom, the public masturbating flashing Loyalist in Dublin (which may something of my character because by the end Bech is a serial kille ...more
Oct 15, 2007 Andrés rated it did not like it
This "Quasi-Novel" lacks two crucial ingredients of a good book: interesting characters and an interesting plot. Very very rarely was anything worth reading, which was disappointing since Updike has such a reputation. Whole sections seem like nothing more than name-dropping, not writing. And the chapter "Bech Noir" is disturbing, pointless, and flagrantly unfunny, all at the same time. Thankfully, the book is quite short.
May 31, 2013 Kate rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This won me over at last. Henry Bech is not the sort of person I would like to hang out with, but he becomes charming in spite of himself. The book ends stronger than it begins; I enjoyed "Bech Noir" very much, and only a curmudgeon would fail to be moved by the final story in the collection. Updike's genius is that he always manages to redeem his characters by portraying them in all their flawed humanity.
Jun 25, 2009 Frank rated it it was amazing
hilarious account where beck, now an old man, gets vicarious revenge for john updike by a) killing off his reviewers, b) inheriting a fortune, c) yielding to the importunities of a young assistant to impregnate her, and, best of all, d) winning the nobel prize by default

for readers who have read all the way through the beck series, this novel makes it all worthwhile.
Sep 09, 2008 Dan rated it really liked it
The first Updike I read, and I was hooked. The writing is very polished (it's a story supposedly told by a writer), and it's hilarious. Basically it's an account of how a successful author deals with becoming old and ultimately obsolete. He has a few tricks up his sleeve, and they're shocking and surprising.
Jun 15, 2016 D rated it really liked it
Shelves: english, comedy
You'd expect more of the same as in the previous Bech books, and that would be OK. However there are some surprise developments which makes this book even more amusing.

The whole Bech series can, imho, be seen as a 'light' version of a typical Philippe Roth book.
Mar 28, 2011 Mike rated it liked it
"That a negative review might be a fallible verdict, delivered in haste, against a deadline, for a few dollars, by a writer with problems and limitations of his own was a reasonable and weaseling supposition he could no longer, in the dignity of his years, entertain."

Love that bit.
Aug 13, 2009 Marvin rated it liked it
The Bech books are among the least memorable of Updike's novels, but still make for enjoyable reading.
Apr 08, 2014 Olivia rated it really liked it
Was on my way to Tolstoi but fell in love with Updike instead.
May 10, 2008 Sandra rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Antihero, and Updike's alter-ego; Bech is apathetically Jewish, a bachelor (later a husband and stepfather for a time, and finally a father in old age), and famously unprolific.
May 10, 2013 Michael rated it really liked it
savage vg
Lynne Swadel
Jan 21, 2008 Lynne Swadel rated it it was amazing
I had not read any John Updike since I was a young adult. Reading it for book club and reminded why he is such a prolific and well-read author, recommend it.
Jul 23, 2014 Tom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
Through Henry Bech,Updike is able to say and do the things our inner, secretive selves would love to accomplish. This a a wonderfully therapeutic romp through life.
Ginger Heskett
I registered a book at!
Raderrex rated it it was amazing
May 18, 2014
Bobby rated it really liked it
Dec 07, 2012
Gsc rated it really liked it
Jan 19, 2013
Tom Miller
Tom Miller rated it it was ok
Mar 10, 2013
Rogerio De moraes
Rogerio De moraes rated it it was amazing
Jan 23, 2014
Benjamin rated it liked it
Feb 18, 2013
Mitch Temple
Mitch Temple rated it really liked it
Oct 24, 2014
Larry Mitchell
Larry Mitchell rated it really liked it
Nov 29, 2014
Louis Fedele
Louis Fedele rated it liked it
Sep 11, 2014
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John Hoyer Updike was an American writer. Updike's most famous work is his Rabbit series (Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; Rabbit Is Rich; Rabbit At Rest; and Rabbit Remembered). Rabbit is Rich and Rabbit at Rest both won Pulitzer Prizes for Updike. Describing his subject as "the American small town, Protestant middle class," Updike is well known for his careful craftsmanship and prolific writing, havin ...more
More about John Updike...

Other Books in the Series

Bech (7 books)
  • Bech: A Book
  • Bech is Back
  • The Complete Henry Bech
  • Basic Bech: Bech a Book, Bech is Back
  • Bech at Bay and Before: Three Bech Novels
  • Bech: His Oeuvre

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