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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Returning To An Earlier Love

From 1978 ("The World According To Garp") through 1998 ("A Widow For One Year"), I read six books by John Irving; he was a favorite author of mine (and many others) during those years. But midway through "Widow...", I began to notice how often (through his characters) he takes swings at his critics. In addition, the quirkiness of some of Irving's characters began to become a little tiresome for me; I decided to take a break. In the fall of 2008, while renting a vacation home, the only book lying around that had any interest for me was Irving's "The Fourth Hand". After finishing it, I thought I was done with him for good.

So when my book club recently selected Irving's "Last Night At Twisted River" (2009), I first thought I'd skip reading it and not attend the meeting. I'm so glad I changed my mind and returned to John Irving. He is still swinging at his critics; his characters are still quirky. But I quickly re-discovered what had always drawn me to him - he revels in these characters he creates, including the unpleasant ones (in "River..." that would be the relentless sheriff). And Irving uses those characters in the service of his gift: he is a master storyteller. Try not to be moved when the son whispers "she bu de" in Korean to his father near the end.

Returning to this earlier love has me reflecting on others I might return to. How about you? Who (or what) have you left behind that is calling to you? Pay attention to the signs.

p.s. Thanks to my friend Sue for suggesting that I occasionally "review" a specific book. Although this hardly qualifies as a review and I've mentioned several books and authors in passing in this blog over the last several weeks, Sue's suggestion inspired me to go into a little more detail about one book/author. I'm curious if any of you have other ideas for me. 

1 comment:

  1. Pat, Thanks for sharing this post with me. How splendid to share you journey through the span of this author's work. I, too, find times when I need a break from the characters and the author's intensity to explore certain aspects of the human condition. "Until I Find You" remains on my shelf marked to page 404 because I needed to take a break about a year ago. But what I enjoy about his writing is that the characters stick with me in a way that when I find myself ready to revisit the story, I will pick up with them like old friends. This a gift that few storytellers have for my scattered brain:) Thank you! d.