Bech Is Back (Magill's Literary Annual 1983)
A realist noted for both the richness of his style and the satiric implications of his fictional portraits of middle-class life and values, John Updike is one of the most prolific and accomplished writers in contemporary America. Novelist, short-story writer, essayist, and poet, he is frequently grouped with John Cheever and J. D. Salinger as a practitioner of “The New Yorker story,” a form known for its stylistic understatement as well as for the sparseness of its plot. Updike’s work is too varied, however, his style too evocative, to be quickly labeled. In his numerous novels, he has experimented with many subjects and created a widely divergent cast of characters. The hero of Bech Is Back, an aging and unproductive Jewish novelist and intellectual, testifies to Updike’s range.
Ironically, Henry Bech, first introduced in Bech: A Book (1970), is the very antithesis of his creator: far from being able to produce a book a year, as Updike has, Bech struggles for more than thirteen years to write a new novel, the immense and sloppy Think Big. In the meantime, he lives off royalties from paperback reprints and honoraria from lectures and college readings. As his creator’s alter ego, Henry Bech is an effective satiric device for viewing contemporary life and culture. He is the modern artist caught in what Updike...
(The entire section is 1526 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1983)
The Atlantic. CCL, October, 1982, p. 103.
Christian Science Monitor. October 6, 1982, p. 14.
Commentary. LXXV, January, 1983, p. 55.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. October 24, 1982, p. 3.
The New York Times Book Review. LXXXVII, October 17, 1982, p. 1.
Newsweek. C, October 18, 1982, p. 67.
Time. CXX, October 18, 1982, p. 72.
Times Literary Supplement. January 14, 1983, p. 30.
(The entire section is 43 words.)