Updike is a such a fine writer that reading this for the love of language and metaphor and the one-two-punch comic sentences is worth buying this book. Henry Bech is a particular type of 60s & 70s character who doesn’t specifically translate into the 21st century, but he’s the kind of fuck-up that every family has (even the successful fuck-up of the family) and so he’s good to know, fun to be around, and can help you out if you need it. Some of these collected stories are wonderful satires on travel, the literary scene, writing fiction, and being Jewish in America, but some are a bit thin, and by that they are send-ups in a world of send-up publication. Updike seemed to rattle several of these off, and, if not for his honed comic touch and fine view of American society, these several might fail. Overall, though, I enjoyed this pastiche of throwback Americana.
september 2, 2012
“Languid and clever, these young people had lacked not only patriotism and faith but even the course morality even competitiveness imposes.”
“He thought intelligence a function of the individual and that groups of persons were intelligent in inverse proportion to their size. Nations had the brains of an amoeba whereas a committee approached the condition of a trainable moron.”
“Norma had, he remembered, a fondness for vodka stingers, for Black Russians, for anything whose ingredients one was likely not to have.”
– John Updike, “Basic Bech”
The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.