Books: A Writer's Life

John Updike revisits the beleaguered Henry Bech

This is John Updike's third go-round with "the semi-obscure American author" Henry Bech. Bech at Bay (Knopf; 241 pages; $23) displays the same mordantly comic look at the literary life that enlivened Bech: A Book (1970) and Bech Is Back (1982). The five stories that make up this new installment of the saga show an older and grumpier Bech still worrying about his long bouts of writer's block and finding ways of getting away from his desk whenever he can. On a State Department-sponsored junket to communist Prague in the mid-1980s, Bech meets dissident Czech writers and begins to envy them...

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