View Full Version : John Irving

08-29-2001, 10:53 PM
My resolution this year was to read all of John Irving's books. I had read A Prayer For Owen Meany a few years ago, and though I found it dense and somewhat...unsettling, I still liked it.

So far this year, I've read:

The Hotel New Hampshire
The Cider House Rules
Son of the Circus
A Widow For One Year
The World According to Garp
The 158-Pund Marriage
Trying to Save Piggy Sneed
The Water Method Man,
and A Prayer For Owen Meany again.

Overall, I enjoy Irving's work. Garp was my favorite, although The Cider House Rules appealed to me for sentimental reasons ("I love nothing and no one as much as I love Homer Wells.") But at the same time, I find his work deeply disturbing. The scene in Garp in the driveway, for instance, when the family is injured. And the incest in The Hotel New Hampshire. On one hand, I think Irving creates beautiful, incredibly realistic and dynamic characters who become human with each passing page. But at the same time, he presents situations that are so perverse, so outlandish, in such a regular tone. Incest? No more important than Lilly becoming a writer. I am often touched, even changed, after reading his works - in the same way that I felt new after I read Sophie's Choice by William Styron or Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe. But I am unsettled as well. Is it because his characters are so real, it's shocking to be exposed to their innermost thoughts and perversions? Or is it his language?

I've tried to analyze why I love him; mostly, it's his writing style. His language is straightforward, to the point. He writes about Frannie and John having sex or Walt dying or Jenny's conception of Garp as if it's normal, expected. But when it matters, he can form a phrase that takes my breath away. I love that command of language, which is rare, I think: the ability to shock, to give the unexpected, and do it beautifully. Irving never wastes words to goes off on tangents, which I appreciate; his concise writings allows his plots to move and gain momentum freely. His plots are certainly heavy, and yet so realistic. Deeply loved characters dying, suicide, the idea fleeting fame and wealth, fate - I can relate to these topics.

His books are long, which has led some of my friends to find him daunting, but I've read four of the above books two or more times. I keep coming back to them; I keep wanting to dive back into the plots and become lost in them. I still want to understand Jenny Fields better; I firmly believe there is more for me to know about
Ruth and Garp and Irving himself.

This brings me to another point: I always feel Irving in the work, though he never intrudes on the narrative. He isn't preachy and he doesn't give lessons (unless "We are all terminal cases" counts as one), but I sense him nonetheless. I can't explain this to well, I guess. I'm just very aware of what he is trying to say, what he wants to convey to me as a reader, what he is struggling with on the page. This is somewhat disturbing as well. Anyone else feel this way?

Mostly, I'm curious as to what other Dopers think of Irving. Is he passe? Do you love him, hate him, and why, why why? What's your favorite Irving book? Why? Where do you rank him among other contemporary authors?

08-29-2001, 10:57 PM
I'm really really mixed on Irving. I think that Owen Meany is one of the greatest novels of the 20th century. I also think Garp could've been, but it was just a little too ... much.

I hated A Widow for One Year. It was going well until halfway through, when the main character witnesses the murder in Amsterdam. That came from nowhere, and the rest of the novel suffered from it.

Of the Irving novels I've read, only New Hampshire doesn't affect me one way or another. I liked it, and that was it.

Owen Meany's the one for me.

08-30-2001, 12:02 AM
I agree that A Prayer for Owen Meany will likely be remembered as one of the great novels of the 20th Century. I adore that book, and was very disappointed by the pseudo-adaptation done for the movie version. None of his other books affected me as much as this one did.

That said, I liked The World According to Garp, but was baffled by A Son of the Circus. I'm not sure what Irving was writing about in that one.

Thumbs up for The Cider House Rules.

The Hotel New Hampshire didn't really click with me. I didn't dislike it, but I didn't love it either.

I haven't read A Widow for One Year, but will as soon as it comes out in mass-market paperback.

I think part of his success is that his books read almost like biographies. Oftentimes you are taken through a character's entire lifespan, as was the case with Garp and Owen Meany, and you can see how the adult version of that character was shaped by incidents in childhood. The characters are so fully realized that I felt like I knew them as well as I could know anybody. Few authors accomplish that with a character for me.

08-30-2001, 01:53 AM
For me, the top three are Hotel New Hampshire, A Prayer for Owen Meany, and then Garp. I've never been able to get through the others I've tried to read.

I recently read My Movie Business: A Memoir. The book is mostly the story of getting The Cider House Rules made into a movie. Lots of interesting stuff, but what really surprised me was that he said he always knows the entire story when he starts writing so that he can focus on the sentences.

This surprised me because I find that most authors that focus on writing pretty sentences tend to forget they're telling a story; and Irving tells stories. The characters develop, grow, and go places you would never expect.

The reason I put Hotel New Hampshire at the top of the list is because I am amazed at how farcical it becomes at times without ever seeming fake or betraying the characters. Owen Meany will always be one of the most moving books I've ever read (as an atheist, it made me look at faith in new lights). Garp will always be remembered for the events that surrounded my reading it.

So far, nothing else has connected with me, but I keep hoping.

08-30-2001, 05:11 AM
John Irving's got this bag of themes, and he shakes the bag up and scatters the themes on the floor and writes a book. Then he puts them back in the bag and does it again. How many books can you read about wrestlers, orphans, circus bears, and shooting victims?

He's a really enjoyable read, but I'm not sure if he really has anything to say.

08-30-2001, 06:10 AM
Kyomara: I agree with you up until the last half of your last sentence :) . He DOES seem to repeat himself a lot, as in fact most moderately prolific writers have a tendency to do. For example most of Irving's more successful books are essentially "coming of age" stories that terminate in early middle-age. But I do believe he has things to say. It just may be that at this point he's said them all ;) . Actually, one of the reasons I'm fond of Cider House Rules in particular, compared to some of his other books, is because I thought it was a little more coherent and focused. It had perhaps a little more to say than usual.

I've largely lost my taste for his stuff these days, but I still think he's a fine writer and deserving of the praise he has received. I suppose for me, Garp and Owen Meany are still his best, with Cider House trailing right behind. The Hotel New Hampshire was a chaotic mess, with some redeeming weirdness :) .

- Tamerlane

08-30-2001, 07:54 AM
Now that we have all the Irving fans lined up; Anyone read The fourth hand??
I've been on the verge of buying it a few times at Amazon, but the reviews aren't very positive, so I'd like some more opinions.
I really Irvings narative style, something that's not very common nowadays. An other author with a similiar style is Robertson Davies, who sadly died about five years ago, but wrote wonderful stories, such as The Debtford trilogy and The Cornish trilogy, the latter of which reminded me a lot of Owen Meany.

08-30-2001, 08:01 AM
I'm so thrilled this thread has been started - I was planning to the exact same thing in the next few days. John Irving is possibly my favourite author and I'm currently re-re-reading A Prayer For Owen Meany again. I don't have time for a long post right now, but I'll be back later. Woo!

08-30-2001, 11:01 AM
I'm a big fan of Irving. Like most, I started with "Owen Meany" (loved it), and moved on to "The Cider House Rules" (hated the movie, loved the book). I've read "Garp" and "Hotel New Hampshire" (how similar are these two?), and listened to "The Water-Method Man" on tape.

"The Water-Method Man" turned me off. It was a bit too woeful, and hit me from the wrong angle. However, one of my alltime favorite words came from that book - "Boobloop".

I did read "Widow For a Year" and got back into Irving, and am waiting to read "Fourth Hand".

Sorry if this is disconjuncted, I'm at work, and just wanted to chime in.

08-30-2001, 12:21 PM
The two Irving books I enjoy the most are Owen Meany and Son of the Circus.

I should start out by saying that I am a little perplexed by critics who put Irving in the "very best authors of the century" category. I agree that Owen Meany is a contender for "one of the very best books of the century" but that novel stands out head and shoulders above the overall body of Irving's work.

One of the things I like about Irving is what obfusciatrist said about Hotel New Hampshire, that his characters are so over the top and yet they still seem real and believable. I think Irving (or what I'm getting from his work, at any rate) is very successful at focusing a magnifying glass on a seemingly average character and revealing that person's life as being made up of any number of strange and coincidental events. I am intrigued by the idea that one could do that to almost anyone -- that we can look at our own lives and families and come up with some "truth is stranger than fiction" themes.

At the same time, after reading a number of his books, I want to say "OK, now what?" I think this is going beyond repetition, which I don't have a problem with. At this point, Irving is still milking the quirky cow, and I'd be more interested to read an Irving novel that was about people without so much surreal baggage attached. I've noticed that when I read an Irving novel, I'm so used to all the strange and bizarre tidbits and happenings that nothing really surprises me. I rarely feel emotional or satisfied about any of the resolutions in the books, because they usually feel like just one more oddball occurance in a never-ending chain. (I don't think this is true of Owen Meany, which is why I feel it is so much better than the rest of his work).

tiny ham
08-30-2001, 12:27 PM
Owen Meany is really in my top three favorite books of all time. It was HEARTWRENCHING, and I felt it DID have a lot to say. John was a disciple of a "christ" figure and became sort of bitter and angry that no one could see the greatness of Owen like he did. I cried like an f-ing baby at the end of that book.

I have not made it through Hotel New Hampshire, simply because I can't take it! I can't take John Irving ripping my heart out and stomping it to death (Egg and Mom). I don't have the emotional energy right now! :)

But a note on A Widow For One Year. I think you MUST be a writer to enjoy this book. I was engrossed in the thought processes of creating a story and developing it (going to Amsterdam, visiting Delores), and to me that was more exciting than the rest of the book.

I haven't read Cider House Rules, because my husband has warned me that the 'abortion scenes' are pretty frighteningly graphic, and I know if it's john irving, I'll be tremndously moved.

That said, I can't wait to read The Fourth Hand. I love John Irving.

08-30-2001, 12:43 PM
I didn't expect so many responses, but it's wonderful to know how many of you read Irving as well.

Owen Meany will always be a book I return to, I think, because every time I read it, I find something new. It's enjoyment is strangely connected to events in my life, unlike any other book I've read. Whatever is going on in my life when I read it takes on new meaning, new significance. And it always, always affects my feelings toward faith, fate, and destiny. Whenever I read some sort of God plateau, wherein I'm not really thinking about religion or faith at all, I read Owen Meany and start analyzing my faith again. This is extremely unusual for me as a reader; most books are entertaining, or thought-provoking, but not on a long-term level.

Garp was a revelation for me. The parts that were biographical (maybe two-thirds) were finely written and entertaining, but certain parts led me to new ideas, new beliefs, new knowledge about being an adult and having peace, success, and happiness. After the driveway incident, after Walt dies and the family would seemingly fall apart, that Garp and Helen still love each other and remain married was a big shocker, certainly different from my personal experiance. The line (somewhat paraphrased, as I don't have the book handy) "I don't blame you, and I don't blame me - in this we can be whole again" was extremely moving for me. When Garp mourns Walt and says "I mish him!" - for me, this was honest, bare emotion. It made me think about fatherhood (what it means to be a father, how it differs from motherhood) and parenting in general - how parents are connected and seperate from their children, and for what reasons.

Hotel New Hampshire was shocking. The incest, Mother and Egg dying, Lilly's suicide, Franny's rape and later revenge - shock after shock. I didn't find much beauty in it, either, for the presentation of this plotlines was unexceptional, as I said in the OP: "Franny and I made love all afternoon; Lilly just wasn't big enough." I somehow expected more passion from the characters. Nonetheless, they were all startingly real. I don't love the book, but I love the characters; I love how they all go on and keep fighting; and I love the end, the part about how we imagine our lives as quickly as the dreams dissipate.

Son of the Circus was interesting - I really think I need to read it again before I can offer analysis, though. I'm not as fluent in it s I am the others.

The top three I wrote of are my favorites, the ones I keep reading again and again. Overall, I think this is because irving has an entirely unique voice. Dickens is the only author I can compare to him, although there are a lot fo writers left for me to read. In this century, though, no one comes close to Irving, IMHO. He may rehash old plot lines, but his voice and his plots themselves, as compared to other novelists, are unbelievably original.

I have to run to my 1:00 class now (Literary Analysis, go figure) but am excited to read what else you all have to say.

BTW, on an unofficial Irving fan page, Owen Meany was voted best book by a landslide, so it's certainly widely thought of as his best work.

08-30-2001, 12:48 PM
Yup. Let me be the first to say it. I have read it. Enjoyed it, as it is a pretty quick read (for Irving, anyway). Only 318 pages, about 200 - 250 less than Owen Meany and Son of the Circus. Once again, a case of realistic characters in unrealistic circumstances.

Let there be no doubt. Irving is my favorite author, and has been since Garp. I have a goal of owning everything that he has written in hardcover. I still need the first three novels (Setting Free the Bears, The Water-Method Man and The 158-Pound Marriage) and Owen Meany and the collection will be complete. (I think it's time for a trip to Seattle to hit a used bookstore!)

My favorites are probably Owen Meany, Cider House Rules and Son of the Circus. I originally had a hard time getting into Circus, but it grew on me, especially the second time around.

The hardest for me to get into was Setting Free the Bears.

Why A Duck
08-30-2001, 12:49 PM
Wow, thanks guys.

I haven't read Irving in years. I remember reading Garp and Hotel New Hampshire back in high school, and I've seen those movies, but I guess I kinda lost track of the man.

Owen Meaney is on order, can't wait for the experience.

08-30-2001, 12:59 PM
Originally posted by jarbabyj
I can't take John Irving ripping my heart out and stomping it to death (Egg and Mom).

That's the reason I quit reading Irving - I can't forgive him for killing Egg. He killed him and then let me know he did it largely because he could. He was the all-powerful author and could manipulate my feelings as easily as he could manipulate his characters.

Yeah, great, I admire the art but I'm not going to put myself in that position again, thank you very much. Bastard. Talented bastard, it's true, but still - bastard.

Cat Whisperer
08-30-2001, 02:38 PM
Nacho4Sara, my opinions about Irving books are pretty much like yours. I pick up the book, I read a little, he shocks the pants off me, I put down the book, I come back to it again, and can't seem to stop reading, in spite of how uncomfortable he makes me some times. I only have one test for a good author; does he make me keep on reading? By my standards, John Irving is a good author. I'm never sure when I finish one of his books whether I liked it or not, but he keeps me hooked until the last page.

Son of the Circus is the last JI book I read (finished it last year), and it still bounces around in my head a little. The way he puts his characters in odd situations where they have odd reactions and like/dislike odd things is always so...odd. He can't seem to write cliched characters or situations. Maybe that's why his books are so fascinating.

08-30-2001, 05:24 PM
I loved A Widow for One Year.

I've given away my copy of Owen Meany so many times it's probably in China by now. Jarbaby, I like what you said about the "embittered disciple of a Christ figure" - his messiah leaves him and NOW what is he supposed to do? I've always seen it as a portrait of America's loss of innocence. Owen Meany's refusal to believe that JFK could be diddling Marilyn Monroe and his idealism comes across as "cute" to us because we're so past the point where we believe in our leaders as men of principles. And he shows how the Vietnam war was part of stripping that innocence away, ending up in the Reagan years where no one can even pay attention to the lies of the president and morally shady interventions overseas.

08-30-2001, 05:57 PM
Add my name to the list of folks who adored Owen Meany. I have given it to quite a few people as a present. Of course, no one seems to love it as much as I do, except for you fine folks, of course. :D

I've also read a few other of his novels and while I've enjoyed them tremendously, Owen Meany is definitely in a league of its own.

08-30-2001, 06:12 PM
I haven't read Cider House Rules, because my husband has warned me that the 'abortion scenes' are pretty frighteningly graphic, and I know if it's john irving, I'll be tremndously moved.

Actually, they really aren't graphic at all. Now that I have more time (sorry for all the typos in the last post!) I can write about Cider House Rules.

For me, the most moving aspect of the book is the father-son relationship between Larch and Homer. Nothing I've ever read seems as honest, moving, touching, and true as the dynamic between them. I love that Larch shoves Homer out the door with Candy and Wally (unlike the movie, wherein he wants Homer to stay.) I love that despite Larch's love for Homer, he still wants him to live and experiance life outside the orphanage. There are several moments that I will never, ever forget: the first fatherly kiss, the "I love nothing and no one as much as I love Homer Wells" line, when Angel and Rose Rose have their little romance, and the last three or four pages. "There is nothing wrong with Homer Wells's heart." I adore that line.

I also appreciate how Larch's History narrates the whole novel and adds another dimension to the story. The character of St. Larch is so wonderful: he is as real as my mom, or my brother, to me. Despite his generosity and devotion, though, he never descends into cheesiness - he never becomes the old silly grandfather figure. Because of his ether addiction and the whole "rhymes with Eames" debacle, we know that he is not perfect, but his good qualities far outweigh the bad. He is the sort of man I would like to have had for a father.

Finally, the ending kicks absolute ass. All of Irving's endings do: they never rehash old plot, they never simply catalogue where each character is in life. Irving seems to let loose a theme on the last page of every book that has been weaved somewhat throughout, and thus ties the book up in a big bow without ever sounding trite.

I too liked Widow because of the insight into Ruth's life as a writer. Although I agree that the plot twists off halfway through. And that Ruth's mom returns is just a little too neat for me.

I cannot wait to buy The Fourth Hand, as soon as I get my loan refund check in a few weeks.

Ellen Cherry
08-31-2001, 04:01 PM
I, too, have spent a lot of time analyzing just what it is about Irving that appeals to me so. First of all, it's the impact The World According to Garp had on me when I first came to it. As I think someone mentioned, about Widow for One Year, this is a book to be savored by writers and reading it convinced me that I, too, could join these simmering and seething ranks. Reading about Garp instantly made me see that writing could be an interesting profession.

Not that I have enough imagination to sustain even a short story. (Which is why I became a reporter/now educational television writer, I suppose). But anyway, Irving's love of language lept off the page for me. Even today, I can rarely use a semicolon without thinking of him.

Garp led me to Irving's other works, all of which I've read except Son of the Circus (tried once and it left me cold; I was depressed for a week) and The Fourth Hand. I've been licking my chops in anticipation for a while now.

Which is why I'd like to suggest, in response to a thread started by someone suggesting on online reading club of CAMUS for heaven's sake, that we Irving devotees join hands and read his latest together.

I've read books with people online before, with mixed results. Usually it's difficult to get everyone to buy it and actually read it at the same time. But it's wonderful to be reading someone you love with others who feel the same, so I'm interesting in seeing if the rest of you would like to give it a go.

08-31-2001, 06:17 PM
I'm willing to play along, but someone has to be willing to organize and lead.

08-31-2001, 07:59 PM
I, too, am a huge Irving fan, having read pretty much everything except The Fourth Hand and Son of a Circus. I started Son and couldn't get into it. Oddly enough, though, my favorite of his books is an unpopular choice: The Water Method Man. I loved it and thought it was funny as hell. I liked Garp and Cider House, too. (Btw, I was sitting in the second or third row when he read a chapter aloud during a presentation at UNC in the eighties. Damn, is that man handsome! And what a voice!)

To continue with my odd Irving taste, I didn't particularly like Owen Meany, but you guys have convinced me to give it a second chance.

09-04-2001, 12:19 AM
I started with Garp and have loved him ever since (except for Son of the Circus). Owen Meaney always leaves me a wreck.

I liked The Fourth Hand quite a bit, but it doesn't pack the punch that some of his other stuff does.

09-04-2001, 01:34 AM
I started another ill-considered JI thread but will post to this one as well (I blame it on the "Search" function)...

As I stated in the other thread, I just got done reading "The Fourth Hand" and found it not very filling, especially for an Irving book. Not to say that it's bad, it just doesn't seem as developed and the subplots just don't seem to cross like Irving stories typically do. I loved the symbolism of the wedding bands in the later part of the book (trying not to be a spoiler for those who haven't read it).

"My Movie Business" - haven't read it yet, on order from Amazon (as soon as Mrs. whoami? makes her reading selections)

"A Widow for One Year" - probably my least favorite - for personal reasons, I lent it to a friend about 2 years ago and really don't care to get it back... The Amsterdam brothel scenes seemed way too depressing to me (I'm pretty sure Irving wanted to convey the furtiveness and moral desolation as he did, and he was successful if that was his aim). It was a well crafted book, but just was too unsettling for me (my cousin was killed in a car accident very similar to the boy's accident in the book).

"Trying to Save Piggy Snead" - kind of an autobiography, short story anthology. I bought it for the short stories, but got more out of his wrestling stories. I plan to re-read it in the near future, as I don't remember much of it.

"A Son of the Circus" - I really felt that this was probably the biggest creative leap that Irving has made in his later work - setting, plot and characters. I love the off-kilter characters, and the secret identity, father-son relationship behind the movies... I respect this book.

"A Prayer for Owen Meany" - I thought it was very annoying how Owen always dialoged LIKE THIS!!, but as a writing device it clearly got across Owen's voice. I thought that the point-of-view character (John?) was pretty much a continuation of the character in "Hotel New Hampshire" - not literally, but in the sense of "true narrator as character" - a springboard that the other characters acted upon. I enjoyed this book, but it was not my favorite.

"The Cider House Rules" - Dr. Larch ROCKS!!!! I enjoy this book every time I read it, and I've read and re-read it at least a half-dozen times (the rest, with the exception of AWFOY, I've re-read two or three times) Irving's tone connects to me the best in this book. I feel that its central theme "wait and see" applies to all of his other works, by negative or positive actions of characters. I've seen the movie three times now, and I actually enjoy the adaptational differences (rare for me, I'm too picky most of the time). Mrs. whoami? has said that she wants to read the book, after seeing the movie (she doesn't really appreciate the darkness in Irving).

"The Hotel New Hampshire" - this was the first Irving book I ever read cover to cover, so it has a special place in my heart. I was in early high school, so it must have been '83 or '84. I remember getting in trouble for reading it in English Lit. class, until the teacher made me do an impromptu synopsis for the rest of the class. I can picture Sorrow floating in the cold dark water to this day. I love the Grillparzer substory. I've heard that the movie is a bloody mess, AND I tend to steer clear of Rob Lowe's ouvre, so I can't really speak of the movie adaptation.

"The World According To Garp" - I read this immediately after reading "Hotel New Hampshire" - I THINK this is probably the closest to an autobiographic character to Mr. Irving. I didn't see the film until fairly recently (early '90s - hey, I don't watch much TV or movies...), so I'm glad that Robin Williams as Garp didn't have the opportunity to warp my fragile young mind (gratuitous South Park reference, for which I apologize profusely). As a male, Jenny (the character) scares the piss out of me, rightly so.

"The 158-Pound Marriage" - I can't honestly say I remember anything about this book. I'm pretty sure I've read it - I mean, it's got dog-eared pages and has been in my garage collecting dust. I will have to re-read this one.

"The Water Method Man" - I read this right before I finished up my thesis project (Architecture), so I probably don't remember this one very clearly either. I remember it as a somber, desolate piece... I need to re-read this one, too.

"Setting Free the Bears" - What could be cooler than tooling around late '60s, early '70s Austria on a motorcycle, if just in your mind? As a first novel it has great power. It has a Kerouac feel to it for me. I really enjoyed it. Again, I don't remember much beyond general plot - so I guess this month will be spent boning up on early Irving.

I have this mental picture of Irving as a fairly accessible, egotistical man - anybody ever met the man?

Ellen Cherry
09-04-2001, 08:29 AM
Originally posted by whoami?

"The Hotel New Hampshire" - this was the first Irving book I ever read cover to cover, so it has a special place in my heart. I was in early high school, so it must have been '83 or '84. I remember getting in trouble for reading it in English Lit. class, until the teacher made me do an impromptu synopsis for the rest of the class. I can picture Sorrow floating in the cold dark water to this day. I love the Grillparzer substory. I've heard that the movie is a bloody mess, AND I tend to steer clear of Rob Lowe's ouvre, so I can't really speak of the movie adaptation.

Ohhhh.... "The Pension Grillparzer" appeared in The World According to Garp. :)

09-04-2001, 11:41 AM
I am in total agreement.

To comment on Irving, I find that I can pay him the best compliment I know how. When you are reading John Irving, you know you are reading John Irving. And, because his style is so unique, you find yourself falling in love with his books. Finally, not knowing exactly what it is about his style that you love so much, re-reading him is really easy and rewarding.

Every one that I really like has read Owen Meany.

09-04-2001, 12:09 PM
Hmm, I started with Garp in tenth grade; I read during my precalculus class--since I was on cruise control (real easy teacher). Unfortunately, I would hit a line like "there's no sex like trans-sex", and fall out of my chair laughing. The only thing that saved me from being banished from class was that I finished it so quickly. And then I was hooked...

naughty wicked zoot
09-10-2001, 04:54 PM
my husband loaned my owen meaney when we were dating, and i loved it. so much, in fact that in the next year i read everything irving had written up to that point. when i go into the local barnes and nobel, he's on eof the first authors i look for. i've read everything but 4th hand. i love owen meaney, and to this day i get tears in my eyes when i think of the minister saying "give him back to us. i will keep asking you." damn, my throat just got all closed up. son of the circus was all right, cider house rules was great. i'm an irviphile, proud of it.

Mr. Blue Sky
09-10-2001, 06:05 PM
Garp was the first "adult-themed" book I ever read. Big thanks to my 10th grade librarian for believing me to be mature enough to handle it. I distinctly remember having to read the paragraph where Pooh shot Garp several times before I would let it sink in. I had never been blown away by a book like that. Owen Meany is one of the very few books I feel good about recommending to anyone (my tastes tend to lean toward sci-fi).

As for movie adaptations, Garp is one of the few movies that nearly brings tears to my eyes since I am such a big fan of the book and I know what's going to happen.

Hotel New Hampshire is an abomination.

Thankfully, Owen being turned into Simon Birch failed so miserably that John took his name off the project. When I read that the book was going to be adapted into a movie, I was hoping the studio would go bankrupt before the movie could be completed. This is one of the few non-sci-fi/fantasy movies that could not be properly translated onto film.

09-11-2001, 08:45 AM
Garp is my absolute favorite 20th century book. It's a masterpiece. I consider it to be about the sexual mores of the time. Garp is about as sexually normal as a person gets. He loses his virginity with the bad girl (Cushie, who dies making a baby), marries his childhood sweetheart, has 2.5 children, and has a serious affair and a few one-night stands on the side.

Most everyone else in the book is sexually warped, especially Jenny & Roberta. The attempt to silence Ellen James's rape and the punishment for Helen's affair are the two best handled ideas in the book. And of course, the accident scene is written superbly, and has been quoted in several other books.

Wouldn't a biography of Ellen James make a great book?

09-11-2001, 11:50 PM
I've read several of John Irving's novels, since he's a local (or was) writer. I still can't figure out if I like him or not. As has been stated by others, I too am put off by the whole "bears, prostitutes, Vianna, oh my" repeative themes he uses. Yes, some writers reuse themes, but I've never read anyone who used so many of the same things in different novels. Well, amend that, there's a rival in VC Andrews, especially in the novels she "wrote" after she died. Either way, I don't really enjoy being able to predict from the outset if it's going to have his favorite x,y,z themes in it. I try not to over-use themes, and there are probably only half a dozen people who have read several of my stories each (me not being a published novelist and all) so it strikes me as just weird that he'd purposely and unappologetically throw the same old themes at his vast readership.

I couldn't finish (oh hell, I barely started) Son of the Circus, but his other novels are engrossing if odd. I'll go against the majority, too, and admit that my favorite is not A Prayer For Owen Meany (though it is second) but is A Widow For One Year. There's something tragically endearing about Ruth's origins that just gets me. Born only to asuage the parents loss...

My final comment on John Irving is that he should never ever agree to let anyone make another film adaption of his books. They ruin them all. The only one that's even bearable to watch is Cider House Rules(the movie is lacking, too, though. The book left me at odds because I wanted to be able to hate St. Cloud by couldn't, while the movie didn't evoke that response at all.) The Hotel New Hampshire, though, is an act of...of...something bad, anyway.

poohpah chalupa
09-13-2001, 11:09 AM
Irving is far and away my favorite writer.
I must've read and re-read the last couple of chapters to Owen Meany about a dozen times after the first reading. Incredible. Still moving.
Cider House, New Hampshire and Garp follow-up my list of faves. Like many others though, I could not get into Son of the Circus...it was so abysmally bad for me that I'm fearing that it's put me off of Irving for awhile. I picked up a copy of Piggy Sneed, but I haven't opened it yet and haven't even purchased copies of Widow and Hand.

But, after having perused this thread, I think I may again be inspired. Thanks to all for posting here for the encouragement.

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