Henry Bech, the celebrated author of Travel Light, has been scrutinized, canonized and vilified by critics and readers across the world. Here, the experiences of this bemused literary icon, one of Updike's greatest creations, are described in hilarious detail, as he travels the world struggling to break his writer's block; returns to his native America to find new success with Think Big, his all-time blockbuster; and visits communist Czechoslovakia, where he is greeted by a dizzyingly adoring public. Brilliantly comic and deeply poignant, The Complete Henry Bech is one of the greatest of all explorations of the writing life and of what happens when an writer becomes a literary celebrity.
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Since tales of his exploits began appearing in "The New Yorker more than thirty years ago, Henry Bech, John Updike's playfully irreverent alter-ego, has charmed readers with his aesthetic dithering and his seemingly inexhaustible libido. The Bech stories--collected in one volume for the first time, and featuring a final, series-capping story, "His Oeuvre"--cast an affectionate eye on the famously unproductive Jewish-American writer, offering up a stream of wit, whimsy, and lyric pungency unmatched in American letters.
From his birth in 1923 to his belated paternity and public apotheosis as a spry septuagenarian in 1999, Bech plugs away, globetrotting in the company of foreign dignitaries one day and schlepping in tattered tweeds on the college lecture circuit the next. By turns cynical and naive, wry and avuncular, and always amorous, he is Updike's most endearing confection--a Lothario, a curmudgeon, and a winsome literary icon all in one. A perfect forum for Updike's limber prose, "The Complete Henry Bech is an arch portrait of the literary life in America from an incomparable American writer.
"A deft poke at what it means to be a writer in America."
—THE NEW YORK TIMES
"In his extraordinarily productive career, 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."
"One of Updike’s best creations."
"Bech is Updike’s alter ego, a mouthpiece for Updike’s often sarcastic, even caustic insight into writers and the writing life . . . [His] style is never more jubilantly elaborate than in a Bech book, and his intelligence never more provocatively displayed."
"As imaginative territory, literary Manhattan has proved irresistible to Updike the satirist, and he has done it full justice and then some in his volumes of stories concerning the doings of New York novelist Henry Bech."
—THE NEW CRITERION
"A mordantly comic look at literary life."
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