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The Complete Henry Bech (Penguin Modern Classics) [Paperback]

John Updike
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: 14.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Paperback, 1 Jun 2006 14.99  

Book Description

1 Jun 2006 Penguin Modern Classics
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.

Frequently Bought Together

The Complete Henry Bech (Penguin Modern Classics) + Marry Me (Penguin Modern Classics) + My Father's Tears and Other Stories
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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (1 Jun 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141188561
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141188560
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 751,985 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Updike was born in 1932 in Shillington, Pennsylvania. He attended Shillington High School, Harvard College and the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art at Oxford, where he spent a year on a Knox Fellowship. From 1955 to 1957 he was a member of the staff of the New Yorker, to which he contributed numerous poems, short stories, essays and book reviews. After 1957 he lived in Massachusetts until his death.

John Updike's first novel, The Poorhouse Fair, was published in 1959. It was followed by Rabbit, Run, the first volume of what have become known as the Rabbit books, which John Banville described as 'one of the finest literary achievements to have come out of the US since the war'. Rabbit is Rich (1981) and Rabbit at Rest (1990) were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Other novels by John Updike include Marry Me, The Witches of Eastwick, which was made into a major feature film, Memories of the Ford Administration, Brazil, In the Beauty of the Lilies, Toward the End of Time and Villages. He has written a number of volumes of short stories, and a selection entitled Forty Stories, taken from The Same Door, Pigeon Feathers, The Music School and Museums and Women, is published in Penguin, as is the highly acclaimed The Afterlife and Other Stories. His criticism and his essays, which first appeared in magazines such as The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books, have been collected in five volumes. Golf Dreams, a collection of his writings on golf, has also been published. His Collected Poems 1953-1993 brings together almost all the poems from five previous volumes, including 'Hoping for a Hoopoe', 'Telephone Poles' and 'Tossing and Turning', as well as seventy poems previously unpublished in book form. The last books of his to be published by Hamish Hamilton were My Father's Tears and Other Stories, and Endpoint and Other Poems. He died in January 2009.


Product Description

Review

"A deft poke at what it means to be a writer in America. " (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." (Chicago Tribune)

"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.

" (Time) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Book Description

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.

"One of Updike's best creations." -Life

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Students (not unlike yourselves) compelled to buy paperback copies of his novels - notably the first, Travel Light, though there has lately been some academic interest in his more surreal and 'existential' and perhaps even 'anarchist' second novel, Brother Pig - or encountering some essay from When the Saints in a shiny heavy anthology of mid-century literature costing $12.50, imagine that Henry Bech, like thousands less famous than he, is rich. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
3.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not Complete 14 Dec 2006
By Jack
Format:Paperback
The Henry Bech stories are great - among Updike's funniest pieces.

However, this is not the Bech collection to buy because IT IS NOT COMPLETE! It only contains the stories in 'Bech: A Book' (1970) and 'Bech Is Back' (1981) with an extra story from 1986, 'Bech in Czech'. Although published as a Penguin Modern Classic in 2006 and trumpeting itself as 'complete' it eschews all but one of the stories contained in the third Bech collection 'Bech At Bay' (1998) as well as the last Bech story to date, 'His Oeuvre'.

I think Penguin has simply been lazy and put a new cover on an old paperback collection published in the early 1990s before Updike had rounded out the Bech saga.

Buy the beautiful (and actually complete) Everyman's Library hardcover for a quid extra. Don't let Penguin get away with this rip-off.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Complete (Sort of) Henry Bech 22 Oct 2007
Format:Paperback
Henry Bech, a Jewish writer who has been unproductive for well over a decade, finds himself continually offered free trips to obscure Eastern European countries. Academics from minor American universities call to offer him accommodation in return for a trip around the lecture circuit. Magazines and newspapers publish, every now and again, short articles entitled 'Whatever happened to Henry Bech?'. Once an up and coming novelist and now just an author who doesn't write, Bech lives the meaningless jet-set life of the author who has attained distinguished writer status simply by virtue of not having written a word in years. For John Updike, protestant where Bech is Jewish, productive where Bech is silent, this 'alter-ego' allows him to explore, with satire, wit and often, tedium, the celebrity life an author sometimes finds himself living, without ever really knowing how it all happened.

'The Complete Henry Bech' published by Penguin - and more on that later - contains two novellas and a short story. Bech: A Book is primarily concerned with Bech's adventures around the world, which essentially gives Updike an excuse to mention that countries major writers and to make allusions to them throughout the text. Bech is Back is the most entertaining of the trio and deals, in part, with Bech finally publishing after fifteen years silence, his often-referred to but never really worked out novel, Think Big. In between, he is married, divorces, and has plenty of literary discussions with young female editors, typists, fans, reviewers - all of whom seem remarkably enamoured with the author. Finally, there is Bech in Czech, a very short story which returns to the main conceit of Bech: A Book which, by now, has become somewhat unnecessary to the needs of the character.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Deservedly judged as a modern master. 8 Nov 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Wonderful writing...the kind you have to read slowly,clearly written with care and needs to be read in the same way.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Must" reading for all John Updike fans 22 May 2001
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Henry Bech is John Updike's playfully irreverent alter ego and has charmed readers with aesthetic dithering and a seemingly inexhaustible libido. Now all of Updike's Henry Bech stories have been compiled in one volume, including the final, series-capping story "His Oeuvre". This outstanding Everyman's Library edition of The Complete Henry Bech is "must" reading for all John Updike fans and a very highly recommended addition to school and community library literary collections.
5.0 out of 5 stars Bech and Rabbit 28 July 2013
By priam - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Bech differs from Rabbit and offers another view into our experience of being human. Bech, Rabbit, Duane Moore, Frank Bascombe, Ed Tom Bell, Roth's Everyman, all offer distinct experiences of what it means to be a human being. All are fascinating, absorbing reads. Bech may be more in control of his life than Rabbit and the others........and maybe not.
Bech is a wonderful read.
8 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Updike is better than Bech 20 Oct 2004
By Shalom Freedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Updike's Jewish alter ego is an extension of his imagination and identity. He recognizes and absorbs the ' identity ' of his major rivals of the time Bellow and Roth and shows he also can be them and be that. But a projection however clever does not in this case have the power of what is closer to him, with him. And there is greater authenticity and strength in the 'Rabbit Books'.

I have I think also an objection which only a minority of readers will share. Bech is a pasteboard Jew who has no real deep Jewish knowledge or identity. This does not mean characters like him do not exist, or Updike had no right to create him. It does mean that those of us looking for some depth when they meet a Jewish intellectual or cultural figure are quite disappointed.

In any case it is clear that for Updike Bech is just a sideshow, one of the many that constitute parts of the complex identity of this very remarkable American writer.
4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The type is a bit small 17 Aug 2008
By David Barrett - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Plenty of much better writers than me have written about the literary merits of John Updike's fiction, so I'm not going to even attempt that here, nor do I think it necessary to offer a synopsis. Many years ago I read "Bech: A Book," and "Bech is Back" and found them quite amusing , and I wanted to read the last couple of works in this series. I find with all anthologies that the type is a bit small, but it quite crisp, and seems to pretty newly composited, (unlike say their version of "Bleak House" which is clearly old,) and the pages, although thin, are not of parchment-like thinness of the valuable yet punishing "American Library."
15 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Updike's best fiction, with one large caveat 1 Jan 2002
By Eric Krupin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I've always considered Updike much more valuable for his superlative book reviews than for his, to my mind, more-sizzle-than-steak fiction. (If you dig past the nostalgic plethora of period detail in the Rabbit books, there really isn't a great deal there.) But 20 years after accidentally discovering Henry Bech on the shelves of the public library (just as Updike has said he likes to imagine people encountering his books), his hapless exploits with women and the Muse continue to provide me with unfailing pleasure. It's a fine service to American literature to have them all - including the previously uncollected story "His Oeuvre", one of the best - gathered together between one set of hardcovers.
There is however, I'm sad to say, a big ugly boil on the butt of this otherwise handsome volume: the semi-infamous "Bech Noir", in which Updike, seemingly grown disgusted with the continuing durability of his character, jerks him through a sour ludicrous pantomime - the sheer awfulness of which makes it almost impossible to look at him the same way again. .... It's as if Frank L. Baum, around the fourth or fifth Oz book, had Dorothy move to Los Angeles where she became a crack whore. After that, the valedictory tale in which Bech most implausibly receives the Nobel Prize comes across as simply another gesture of contempt - whether towards the Swedish Academy, for honoring the even-less-qualified Toni Morrison rather than himself, or towards the reader, I can't say. All I can tell you - strange advice, I know - is to skip those two stories if you haven't been contaminated by them already.
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