Every writer needs an alter-ego, and Henry Bech was Updike’s. The differences are important. Bech was Jewish, Updike Protestant. Bech was saddled with writer’s block, Updike probably didn’t know what that felt like. But in the short stories assembled in this, the first of three Bech story collections (Bech is Back, 1982 and Bech at Bay, 1998 both followed), Updike is at his most playfully post-modern. An introduction from Bech to Updike is presented as fact, a charade that the author would continue through the decade, such as in a 1971 interview published in The New York Times. The series was also not without humor, as seen by the super-Protestant author’s comment in a 1982 interview with TIME that he, “created Henry Bech to show that I was really a Jewish writer also.” It’s actually Updike as his most comedic, a vein he probably tapped into less than he should have.
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