Bech at Bay
By John Updike
(Random House Trade Paperbacks, Paperback, 9780449004043, 256pp.)
Publication Date: October 5, 1999
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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 returned to warehouses three weeks after publication. In five chapters more startling and surreal than any that have come before, Bech presides over the American literary scene, enacts bloody revenge on his critics, and wins the world’s most coveted writing prize. It’s not easy being Henry Bech in the post-Gutenbergian world, but somebody has to do it, and he brings to the task his signature mixture of grit, spit, and ennui.
John Updike was born in Shillington, Pennsylvania, in 1932. 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. His novels have won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Rosenthal Foundation Award, and the William Dean Howells Medal. In 2007 he received the Gold Medal for Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. John Updike died in January 2009.
“Wickedly funny . . . a joy to read . . . 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
“Witty, acute, and surprisingly affecting . . . Updike at his most interesting and engaging . . . Like the other books about Henry Bech, this is modest in size but generous with its rewards.”—The Washington Post Book World
“Bech at Bay is brilliant.”—The New York Review of Books