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Actually, I think Bech is a form of Bellow, successful enough to win a cultural exchange to Eastern Europe, where there s a hilarious conversation weighted and delayed by translators, or the absence of them Rumania, Bulgaria The Rumanian cab driver is a hoot Going through a village, the driver would speed up, and intensify the mutter of his honking cluster of peasants and geese exploded in disbelief As they ascended into the mountains, the driver demonstrated his technique with curves he Actually, I think Bech is a form of Bellow, successful enough to win a cultural exchange to Eastern Europe, where there s a hilarious conversation weighted and delayed by translators, or the absence of them Rumania, Bulgaria The Rumanian cab driver is a hoot Going through a village, the driver would speed up, and intensify the mutter of his honking cluster of peasants and geese exploded in disbelief As they ascended into the mountains, the driver demonstrated his technique with curves he approached each like an enemy, accelerating In the jerking and swaying Petrescu the cultural officer grew pale Bech said to him, This driver should be locked up He is sick and dangerous 31 After a long evening s entertainment, Bech worries, My God, don t you Communists ever get tired of having fun His Rumanian odyssey culminates in meeting the famous national writer, on the cobbled pavement, as if on opposite sides of a transparent wall, one side lacquered with Scotch and the other with Vodka Bech asked him, What do you write about The wife, struggling not to cough, translated the question, and the answer, which was brief Peasants, she told Bech He wants to know, what do you write about Bech spoke to him directly, La bourgeoisie, he said, and that completed the cultural exchange 45 When I read this at the beginning of my career, which would later involve me in cultural exchange in the UK and Italy not to include the 8 or 10 other countries where my books are on library shelves , I thought it hilarious And I still find it very amusing Revisiting this work afterthan 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 Revisiting this work afterthan 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 Angstrom s Edward Hyde Muchintellectual and better mannered though ironically,frequently promiscuous than Rabbit, Bech sounds off in elegant terms of literature and culture and the attractions of the many women he pursues Rabbit speaks indirect, earthier terms, and we always know what he s thinking about, which frequently involves functional body parts Rabbit s perceptions are almost always interesting because we feel they are authentic Bech s seem contrived, an outlet for thoughts that Updike chose not to set forth in his innumerable essays Second, although it is repeatedly emphasized that Bech is a Jew, and a child of New York in the Thirties, he doesn t to me sound ethnic in any way The sentiments that come out of his mind and mouth seem Waspish, New England ish This too has made it very hard to think of Bech as real, to care much what happens to him.I can t say that I really liked Bech A Book, but I liked it It was literate, thoughtful, amusing, a nice look back at the late 60 s culture though, to be superfluous, it was no Rabbit Redux Having thoughtabout literature in the last few years than for some time and having seen too many younger readers gobbling up silly fantasies and other easy page turners at the expense of good literature , it was surprisingly pleasant to absorb the musings of a real literary mind, even if they did not stir my soul I liked this enough that I will next tackle Bech is Back, whose pages previously proved an Everest I did not have the patience or will to climb 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 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 knob holding some pounds of jelly in which a trillion circuits, mostly dead, kept records, coded motor operations, and generated an excess of electricity that pressed into the hairless side of the head and leaked through the orifices, in the form of pained, hopeful noises and a simian dance of wrinkles Impossible mirage A blot on nothingness And to think that all the efforts of life his preening, his lovemaking, his typing boiled down to the attempt to displace a few sparks, to bias a few circuits, within some random other scoops of jelly that would, in less time than in takes the Andreas Fault to shrug or the tail tip of Scorpio to crawl an inch across the map of Heaven, be utterly disolved The widest fame and the most enduring excellence shrank to nothing in perspective As Bech ate, mechanically offering votive bits of dead lamb to the terror enthroned within him, he saw that the void should have been left unvexed, should have been spared this trouble of matter, of life, and, worst, of consciousness.and while staring at the stars with his sci fi translating russian guide It is strange, she said, of the books I translate, how much there is to do with supernature Immaterial creatures like angels, ideal societies composed of spirits, speeds that exceed that of light, reversals of time all impossible, and perhaps not In a way it is terrible, to look up at the sky, on one of our clear nights of burning cold, at the sky of stars, and think of creatures alive in it Like termites in the ceiling Falling so short of the grandeur Kate might have had a right to expect from him, his simile went unanswered.lovely and terrifying Back in the Roaring Twenties, someone was talking about Warren G Harding, or it might have been Shoeless Joe Jackson, and they said, he was the ultimate example of just how far a man might go without brains John Updike s life was a similar American miracle, except for brains you would have to substitute character, or moral courage, or integrity, or something like that Updike was prodigiously gifted, enormously talented, and blessed with seemingly inexhaustible reserves of energy and Back in the Roaring Twenties, someone was talking about Warren G Harding, or it might have been Shoeless Joe Jackson, and they said, he was the ultimate example of just how far a man might go without brains John Updike s life was a similar American miracle, except for brains you would have to substitute character, or moral courage, or integrity, or something like that Updike was prodigiously gifted, enormously talented, and blessed with seemingly inexhaustible reserves of energy and intellect He wrote thousands of essays, hundreds of short stories, dozens of novels He was always witty and entertaining He never failed to make a profit.What was always missing was a sense of purpose, a set of principles Updike loved writing, and he loved the rewards He was not about to jeopardize that by saying anything that might disturb anyone in power Updike hated controversy and he could imagine no greater good than supporting the status quo You can write some very good stories upholding the existing order, but you can t write great ones Bech is a glaring example this problem because Updike seems to be taking on a moral challenge He seems to be taking on the voice of a man who is also a writer, but who is tougher,ethnic,urban, less prone to cringe and fawn and flatter the bigwigs There s a lot of casual sex in this book, and a lot of casual rudeness towards women and minorities and the poor But in the end, no one is challenged and no forbidden words are said Bech is no Norman Mailer He s just John Updike Again Unforgettable characters always in Updike s books. I ve readUpdike novels than short stories, and I m amazed at how dense these short stories on the life of author Beck are Updike often strings together two or three quite pithy descriptive phrases in a sentence that really describe the people inhabiting these stories These stories, besides the last one, find Beck travelling to portray the famous author in foreign countries, at a college, and even on vacation where he starts a trip of a different kind My favorite is Beck Swings , whe I ve readUpdike novels than short stories, and I m amazed at how dense these short stories on the life of author Beck are Updike often strings together two or three quite pithy descriptive phrases in a sentence that really describe the people inhabiting these stories These stories, besides the last one, find Beck travelling to portray the famous author in foreign countries, at a college, and even on vacation where he starts a trip of a different kind My favorite is Beck Swings , where Beck has been called to London to be interviewed, misquoted, and have the expected fling Ah, the life of a famous blocked author I m looking forward to After Harry Rabbit Angstrom, Henry Bech is John Updike s most famous creation And decidedly different from Rabbit in every way.The short stories are partly based upon Updike s time abroad in the Communist world Updike was not shy about and was very skilled at using his own life as muse for his writing The stories are short, the book is as well, but Updike shows his mastery at writing the long descriptive sentence.As always, he shows off his considerable vocabulary Occasionally he falls in After Harry Rabbit Angstrom, Henry Bech is John Updike s most famous creation And decidedly different from Rabbit in every way.The short stories are partly based upon Updike s time abroad in the Communist world Updike was not shy about and was very skilled at using his own life as muse for his writing The stories are short, the book is as well, but Updike shows his mastery at writing the long descriptive sentence.As always, he shows off his considerable vocabulary Occasionally he falls in love with a word he used the word coruscation twice within four pages, and used quixotic at least three times in the first four stories.A good read overall *E-PUB ⇜ Bech: A Book ↮ The Jewish American novelist Henry Bech procrastinating, libidinous, and tart tongued, his reputation growing while his powers decline made his first appearance in , in John Updike s The Bulgarian Poetess That story won the O Henry First Prize, and it and the six Bech adventures that followed make up this collection Bech is the writer in me, Updike once said, creaking but lusty, battered but undiscourageable, fed on the blood of ink and the bread of white paper As he trots the globe, promotes himself, and lurches from one woman s bed to another s, Bech views life with a blend of wonder and cynicism that will make followers of the lit biz smile with delight and wince in recognition Bech A Book by John Updike is the first literary experience featuring antihero Henry Bech, a Jewish American writer, but given Updike s nonstop ability to write it wouldn t be his last foray into the mind of his alter ego Bech is in his early forties and has never been married nor has he had any children allowing him free reign to accept invitations to Communist countries and take part in cultural exchanges, to bed random women, and make himself his only responsibility Updike is writing about Bech A Book by John Updike is the first literary experience featuring antihero Henry Bech, a Jewish American writer, but given Updike s nonstop ability to write it wouldn t be his last foray into the mind of his alter ego Bech is in his early forties and has never been married nor has he had any children allowing him free reign to accept invitations to Communist countries and take part in cultural exchanges, to bed random women, and make himself his only responsibility Updike is writing about another writer very different than himself but I feel the narrative provides a little insight into his mind and sheds some light on some things about life that irk him in a way Bech feels like an uncommon hero in an oppressed profession with spiteful people littering his field He s the author of one good book and three others so he s not a rich man but lives comfortably and whatever he lacks in cash reserves hethan makes up for in worldly experiences Although he has reached moderate national success with his debut novel Travel Light, he hasn t reached the level of fame that his contemporaries have but at least he has foreign officials requesting his presence.In Russia Bech can see that an oppressed state is searching to find its footing in the cultural landscape of the advanced world through ingratiating themselves with an American guest, offering gifts, and a female translator It doesn t take long for the reader to figure out that they made a mistake in their choice in who to curry favour with as Henry Bech is a man only worried about one thing, himself Oblivious to pretty much everything around him, he misses a chance for a quick romance, and rather than observe the current state of Soviet ruled Russia, Henry concerns himself with a place to be a consumer and an American first rather than consider anything else On his next sojourn in Bucharest, Bech is dressed in traditional Russian wardrobe and is unrecognizable to the Romanian hosts anxiously awaiting his arrival at the airport Once found, Bech is rather bored by the country and finds his only entertainment in the form of a maniacal chauffeur who instills fear over the course of four days Bech is kept to a strict itinerary and is not allotted much time for meeting people of the opposite sex which is a wrench in the plan wherever Bech finds himselfIn New York, you have women for friends Yes I have only women for friends I have often argued with Bobochka, he says authors should be poor for the suffering, it is how capitalist countries do it and now I see he is right Astounded by this tirade, delivered with a switching head so that her mole now and then darted into translucence for they had reached Moscow s outskirts, and street lamps Bech could only say Kate, you ve never read my books They re all about women Yes, she said, but coldly observed As if extraterrestrial lifeIn Bulgaria, Bech assumes the role as the ambassador of the arts where he becomes entranced by a local poetess She s not the typical woman that he typically crosses paths with she seems complete all by herself, she is independent while presenting a relatively calm and at ease appearance She gives off the perception to Bech that he offers nothing she wants, which makes his attraction that much stronger and their dealings that muchinteresting Back in America, Bech s in the northeast and is vacationing at his getaway spot when he is reunited with a student of his during his regrettable stint as a teacher This is a very Un Bech situation as he finds himself somewhat responsible for others and navigates life with his partner Norma as well as her sister Beatrice and her two children, which takes a lot of his peace of mind There s something missing in Norma s life that Bech can t provide and since Bech simply likes the idea of Norma being around he s not going to work to satisfy her yearning Norma wishes he waslike his literary voice, a sensitive man who would leap through the pages but still remained a kept secret in life form To Norma, Bech is one of, if not the safest men in America, and during a time of free love and hallucinations Norma s looking for a life altering experience and finds it in a young twenty something that s achievedin life than Bech could only dream ofHow strange, really, his condition was As absorbing as pain, yet painless As world transforming as drunkenness, yet with no horizon of sobriety As debilitating, inwardly, as a severed spine yet permitting him, outwardly, a convincing version of his usual performance Which demonstrated if demonstration were needed, how much of a performance it wasBech s back home in Manhattan and he s feeling panicked, his partner s children are beginning to infiltrate every moment of his waking day and have now begun imposing themselves within the sanctity of the bedroom He is internationally famous for God s sake, he has no business playing house with his glorified suburban mistress He is also suffering from writer s block so there is no escaping into the world of words that he s so used to, and he is at odds with his manhood s deficiencies so there is no chance for a distraction Now would be the best time to get out of dodge, his only out was a speaking engagement at a college in the deep south, weighing the lesser of two evils, off he went to VirginiaYou won t speak at Columbia when it s two subway stops away and full of people on your own wavelength, but you ll fly a thousand miles to some third rate finishing school on the remote chance you can sack out with Scarlett O Hara You are sick, Henry You are weak, and sick Actually, Bech told Bea, I ll be there two nights So I can sack out with Melanie tooIn London Bech is hoping that a search for short term love will help with creativity and the completion of his long awaited book While hoping to procure astable future Bech can t help but discuss his past successes in an interview with a local London rag where he s obviously misquoted and digs himself a little deeper of a hole but at least there are woman on every street corner In a heartfelt moment Bech is elected to become a new member of an exclusive group Mama Bech would be so proud As a youngster little Henry loved school and was a terrific student, so much so that he skipped a few grades, but with that came moments of ridicule One of his fondest memories of childhood was his mother taking him to a ceremony where gifted figures became immortalized forever It became an inspiration for him much like Yankee Stadium would be for other athletically inclined youngsters A few decades later he reached a pinnacle of sorts and got the call, but if you understand anything about what you have read up to this point, let s just hope they get his name right over the loudspeaker.Bech A Book is a writer writing about what it s like to be a writer in America and having a whole lot of fun doing it There are plenty of differences between Bech and his creator Updike but there s a feeling that he was using Bech as a proverbial playground and also as a way to voice grievances of his profession, relationships, the writing process, public relations, growing old and even mortality For the most part Bech is an unlikable fellow, but there a moments where descriptions of situations make himredeemable in the eyes of the reader Whatfun could be had with a midlife, overweight Jewish writer in the 1960 s who finds himself traveling different parts of the globe doing things he hates doing only to avoid doing other things he hates while hopefully ending up in the bed of a wanting partner Was an okay read in my bookWho was he A Jew, a modern man, a writer, a bachelor, a loner, a loss A con artist in the days of academic modernism undergoing a Victorian shudder A white monkey hung far out on a spindly heaventree of stars A fleck of dust condemned to know it is a fleck of dust A mouse in a furnace A smothered scream shit it s been years since I read this just remember it was good 4 5John 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.