Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A knowing joke …

… John Updike the Jew — — Readability. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

“Levitation” can also be read as Ozick’s coded response to her contemporary John Updike, who six years earlier had published Bech: A Book, the first of what would become three collections of short stories devoted to the fictional American Jewish writer Henry Bech. The Bech books, which have just been reissued in paperback as part of Random House’s ongoing edition of Updike’s collected works, constitute a weird outlier in Updike’s enormous oeuvre. They are among his most personal, confessional works, dealing as they do with the inner life and professional misadventures of a novelist who in many ways resembles Updike himself. Often, reading the Bech stories, it is easy to imagine Updike drawing upon his own experiences and venting his own writerly spleen—about the fecklessness of publishers, the illusory nature of celebrity, the envy and resentment of rivals and critics. The sheer length of time Updike spent writing about Bech—Bech: A Book (1970) was followed by Bech Is Back(1982) and Bech at Bay (1998)—means that he occupied Updike’s imagination for as long, if never as deeply, as his greatest creation, Rabbit Angstrom.

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