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Bech: A Book
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Bech: A Book

3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  625 ratings  ·  25 reviews
Henry Bech is a Jewish American writer in his early forties, struggling for fame, no Norman Mailer, or Philip Roth, or Saul Bellow, he. We see him on his travels to Russia, to Bulgaria, and in the beds of his various mistresses. This is a funny, witty book about the world of writers and the quest for success.
Paperback
Published October 1999 by Ballantine Books (first published 1970)
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Night by Elie WieselHoles by Louis SacharSpeak by Laurie Halse AndersonCut by Patricia McCormickDune by Frank Herbert
Titles of Only One Syllable
62nd out of 370 books — 107 voters
Rabbit at Rest by John UpdikeRabbit Is Rich by John UpdikeRabbit Redux by John UpdikeRabbit, Run by John UpdikeRabbit Angstrom by John Updike
Best of John Updike
27th out of 80 books — 1 voter


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 929)
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MJ Nicholls
Bech is an old-school American writer (i.e. sexist and racist) whose books have secured him a place in the pantheon of the greats. Ah, the days when we had pantheons! When writers had stature and respect and tabloid headlines, when adoring fans tore their knickers off over a potent metaphor or sly Greek allusion. Gone are the days! He travels the world being droll and patronising the locals for not speaking English, and looks at ladies’ ankles, thighs and calves a great deal before he sleeps wit ...more
brian
i love updike. i’d like to felch his three week old corpse. amidst a great comic novella he throws out BRAIN-EXPLODINGLY GREAT STUFF like this:


He saw that even in this age of science and unbelief our ideas are dreams, styles, superstitions, mere animal noises intended to repel or attract. He looked around the ring of munching females and saw their bodies as a Martian or a mollusc might see them, as pulpy stalks of bundled nerves oddly pinched to a bud of concentration in the head, a hairy bone k
...more
Harold Griffin
Revisiting this work after more than a decade since my first unsatisfying time through, I have reassessed it. I previously rejected it as dull, uninteresting stories about a character about whom I could care less. This time through I found it a pleasant if mostly uninspiring read, a nice period piece.

I think the fundamental problem with the character of Henry Bech is two-fold. First, to some extent Bech represents the Henry Jekyll of Updike's split personality, the opposite of Harold ("Rabbit")
...more
Grant
Nov 19, 2014 Grant rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Updike lovers only
Recommended to Grant by: no one
What I love about Updike is his ability to see, and show the reader-the person inside of his character-who he really is as defined by his the characters first-person story line: vs. who he is perceived to be, as defined by the actions and interchanges he has with others. He uses very clever techniques to accomplish this, and I always find it fascinating. Here is an example:
"He thought back through his life, so many dreams and wakings, so many faces encountered and stoplights obeyed and streets c
...more
Jeremy Sullivan
Sometimes, I feel that books about writers tend to lean on the side of self-indulgent. Updike's Bech: A Book is an example of this done right. On one end, you see the every day happenings of a larger-than-life figure. Henry Bech's first book Travel Light is a cult classic that the author can never seem to follow up. I was reminded of Joseph Heller's Portrait of an Artist as an Old Man when reading this. Sure there are a lot of things in this book that seem to have become cliche in recent years: ...more
Ronnie
"A deft poke at what it means to be a writer in America," The New York Times said, and it definitely is that, but along with the poking there's much more here that shows a true love of and veneration for the craft and the lifestyle, and Updike, one of America's preeminent men of letters, clearly had fun creating this character. I'm sure there are studies analyzing how autobiographical Bech is, and those might be interesting in their own way, but I think anyone who's fairly well-read in 20th cent ...more
Todd Thompson
Great collection of stories in Book 1 of the Complete Henry Bech. I never read an Updike book without some new appreciation for his uncanny realism, expressed in bright satire, especially in these stories about a fictional, internationally famous, writer. "Bech in Heaven" was my favorite of these as Henry Bech is inducted into a literary society, mainly because he had simply survived long enough that those in the society gave him a sympathy vote. Updike's language, is, as always, full of surpris ...more
Chad Bearden
Henry Bech is no Harry Angstrom, but if its John Updike writing it, you know it has to be in some way worthwhile.

I've talked with a lot of people who prefer the Bech stories to the Rabbit novels, but I can't help but think that people who prefer the short vignettes of Bech's life must not have the attention span to stay with Harry through the decades-long saga that was his life. The first chapter of "Rabbit, Run" was far richer in lush characterization than the entirety of "Bech: A Book" was. Th
...more
Eric
I read the first three (of seven) stories last year and quickly put this aside. Henry Bech seemed very facilely cobbled together out of American Jewish Writer tropes, and the Eastern European settings, while not quite ringing false, insinuated the idea of an immediate, obligatory, journalistic deployment of impressions Updike gathered while, like Bech, touring the Eastern Bloc on a State Department goodwill cultural jaunt. I should have pushed on through then, because Bech does become somewhat a ...more
James
Updike is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers. This isn't so much a novel as a series of vignettes about the life of New York novelist Henry Bech. Bech is notoriously unproductive, gamophobic, and Jewish; in short, he's the complete opposite of everything associated with John Updike, who is a famously prolific Ivy League wasp who's been married with children a few times over. At first, the stories are presented as though they're part of a critical overview of Bech's life but that pretens ...more
C'est Camiblue
Si te gusta el humor negro en un mundo de escritores decadentes, otrora taquilleros, este es el libro perfecto. Humor cáustico y reflexiones sobre sexo, drogas y muerte mezcladas con situaciones extraordinarias, vueltas anodinas por la mirada gris del escritor ficticio/autobiográfico Henry Bech. Escrito con chispa, se ríe de todos y de nadie.

Disfrutable.
S.
shit. it's been years since I read this. just remember it was good. 4/5

John Updike does this quintesential new yorker thing of being a privileged son of connecticut imitating the over-sexed, verbally-frantic extremely jewish Bech. people don't read this this much these days, it's too bad. woody allen before woody allen after all.
Joseph Muniz
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Carmelo Militano
If you are interested in what it was like to be successful NY writer in the early 60's and like the wonderful engorged prose style Updike is famous for you will love this book. Funny, insightful and clever
Mo Tipton
I was having a hard time getting into this one, but by the third chapter I remembered why Updike is one of my all time favorites. I would happily read this man's footnotes to the phone book.
Frank
mildly amusing account of a woody allen type character, an author, who lives by giving lectures so as not to have to face up to the challenge posed by his first, wildly successful novel.
Will Clarke
So far its one of those lesser novels by a great author that is nonetheless almost breathtakingly funny and hums along at the brisk pace of a sprinter. Highly enjoyable.
BoekenTrol
Jul 02, 2011 BoekenTrol marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to BoekenTrol by: Moem
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. :-)
Pantelis
Nothing new here. Man struggling with his writing, age, and race, running through chance encounters. Crisp prose but little else to recommend it on.
Nicole
A mixture of Joyce and Nabokov. Humorous, smart, and I cannot wait to read it again to pick up all the nuances of language and wit.
Shannon
My first Updike. Neither impressed nor turned off by it. I may or may not try him again.
Joseph
Good book about writing and being a writer. There's a sequel too. Beck is back.
Boris Feldman
Not as good as I thought it was when I first read it 35 years ago.
Leen Tool
I didn't feel a thing. It was just a book. The end.
Deborah
Unforgettable characters always in Updike's books.
Johnny
Sep 28, 2012 Johnny added it
RECOMMEND
Jameshochberger
Jameshochberger marked it as to-read
Dec 19, 2014
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John Hoyer Updike (born March 18, 1932 in Shillington, Pennsylvania) 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 hi ...more
More about John Updike...
Rabbit, Run (Rabbit Angstrom, #1) Rabbit at Rest (Rabbit Angstrom, #4) Rabbit Is Rich (Rabbit Angstrom, #3) Rabbit Redux (Rabbit Angstrom, #2) The Witches of Eastwick (Eastwick, #1)

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