If you are a friend of mine, you know that on October 15 I finished reading the advance proof of Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving for review. I loved the novel for its characters, of course, and also for its meta-fictional qualities.
Unfortunately, my review of the book had to fit within 400 words, so my original 1200+ words of analysis and critique had to be narrowed down into a blurb. It’s just not all that I would have liked to say about the novel and the author, who is the author that inspired my original love of writing and was the seed of my drive to write. I have never been able to come close to creating even a single character who comes close to comparing in complexity with Daniel Baciagalupo of his latest novel, not to mention Garp or Owen Meany of his past masterpieces.
I remember exactly where I was when I first cracked an Irving novel: It was May 1983 and I had just driven from New Jersey to Allegan, Michigan with my best friend who was moving back there to live with her parents and brother after a year with Granny in the “big city.” She was angry about the move back, and spent the entire time I was there sulking in her room and playing some pre-historic computer game. I had nothing to do. Couldn’t shake her out of her funk.
Her brother, who was two years older than us, was still in school, so his room and all his books were available to me. I had a lot of firsts that year; read my first Vonegut in that room too. I still remember the smell of his bedding– I read there, of course. It was strangely boy-smellling, rather farm-animal-like, kind of haystack, I remember. If I could inhale it today I’d recognize it and I’d be right back there with The World According to Garp. I think I read the whole thing in about two days, or maybe three max. I read the sexy parts over as I pleasured myself in his bed. Jenny and Roberta and most of all Garp became part of my development.
I fell in love there, not with the boy whose book I was reading (although he did give me my very first kiss), but with writing; the act of writing. How Irving could take one story and weave in another and another and seamlessly bring me back to the first story again. I wanted to learn to do that. I still want to learn to do that. Oh, John Irving, how I’d love you to pass that skill on to me somehow.
I’ve read Garp three times and The Hotel New Hampshire twice. Twice The Cider House Rules and twice A Prayer for Owen Meany, which I’ve recommended to just about anyone who has ever ever discussed good books with me. Owen Meany is, imo, the most perfect book ever ever written. (And I have a masters’ degree in English– I’ve read quite a bit.) In fact, I’m due to read it again. I love The Fourth Hand, Widow for a Year… I’ve read all but one of the novels he’s written and just find him so remarkable.
Well, now that I’ve gotten that off of my chest, hopefully I can go see him tonight at The Crest in Sacramento and not run screaming to the front of the theater baring my breasts. But I might ask him to sign my arm. I just am that big a fan.