Monday, October 22, 2012

Maybe I'm Just Ignorant

I am pretty sure that many of the people I love and admire and respect simply adore John Irving. Or, his books at least.
I am not one of those people.
I remember when I read The World According to Garp I was mostly horrified. But I was mostly horrified when I read my first Updike novel (Rabbit Run) and I grew up and came to love his books and his writing to a powerful degree.
And when I saw the movie they made of Garp, I changed my mind about the book. I had missed the existential humor in it! Ah. There you go.
And then I read more of his books and I tried so hard to love them. My kids adore The Hotel New Hampshire but I just can't. I don't. The Cider House Rules, however, I not only enjoyed but I recognized it as a very, very important piece of literature. The movie of that one was terrific too.
Then came A Prayer For Owen Meany and I sort of hated it. Hated the movie, too. There were just too many themes repeated over and over in these books- you know them- the older women, the MIA father, wrestling, bears, Vienna, prostitutes. And I guess that none of these themes resonates with me on a gut-level. You'd think the missing father thing would but it doesn't. Perhaps because of our gender difference. I don't know. But I keep trying. I tried to read Until I Find You and I just couldn't.
Still. I have not given up. I am listening right now to an audio version of In One Person and I just feel incredibly frustrated. Okay. So the bears in this book are not ursine, but they are there. As is wrestling and the missing father and Vienna, and, and, and....
And also, I swear to god, if anyone can make sex sound as boring as Irving does, I have not yet met them.

It's hard to admit this. This inability to love an author so very beloved by people I respect so much but there you go- I cannot love John Irving. Maybe it's his New England Teutonic voice. But I don't think so. And occasionally, he hits the mark for me but I don't think I ever have once read a sentence of his and thought, "Well, there you go. That is it exactly." Mostly I read his sentences and think, "Really? Again?"

So what am I missing here? Is there, like with Garp, a humor I am missing or perhaps a sharp universal truth that I am not recognizing? I am not giving up on In One Person. I am respectful of the complexity which he is bringing to the sexual identity of his main character but it does not especially interest me. I feel no hot-bloodedness here. Not even much warm-bloodedness. I find it telling that one of the earliest characters introduced in the book is a person named Miss Frost.
Yes. I feel frosty towards this book and the characters as well, or most of them. A few of them are somewhat endearing.
Not to the point that I'd want to have lunch with any of them.

Speaking of which, I'm going to town and Lily and the boys and I are going to go see my mother, I think. And then maybe we'll get lunch. We shall see. I've had my walk and it's time to leave Lloyd, for god's sake! And I miss my boys. My baptized boys. I hear that Owen growled at the pastor yesterday which cracks me up. He growls at me too so I'm not making any big deal of this but still. I miss my growly boy and his smiling brother.

It's Monday, y'all! I hope you're having a good one. And if any of you can explain John Irving to me and what I'm missing in his books, please do.

Love...Ms. Moon


  1. No words of wisdom from me on John Irving. I tried, too, and made my way through Owen Meany (kind of hating it) and I didn't even finish Garp. I just couldn't hang. It wasn't all that interesting to me. Then again, neither was Twilight :)

    I miss Harry Potter though terribly.

    Anyway. That's all from me...

  2. I tried to like John Irving, too, and I just don't.

    I often used to muddle through books just because a friend recommended them and/or I thought I was supposed to like certain authors. Then I came upon a saying: "Life is too short to read books you don't enjoy."

    Now if I don't enjoy or "get" a book after a chapter or two, I ditch it!

  3. I LLOOOOOVED Owen Meaning... The movie even more then the book. How people can differ. I kind of forgot Garp. I read it in a previous life time but it did not stick.
    It's good that different people have different views on different things. The world would be a boring place other wise...

  4. I gave up and relegated the Irving novel to the carousel on my Kindle. I might even delete it all together. Incredibly boring -- and I kept reading, slogging, through the first half.


  5. After Garp, Irving was relegated to the, "IF I get sent to prison, I may try them, IF my to-read list is finished..." category of my reading priorities.
    Although, I may use Irving as an excuse to quit reading Mr. Foster-Wallace's tome.

  6. Oh, John Irving. xxoo

    My Aunt with the crazy sense of humor gave me The World According to Garp one summer, along with some Dave Barry, Thurber and Twain, and I was young and impressionable and found Irving scandalous, hilarious and heartbreaking. Decades later, I loved Owen Meany so much I bought extra copies and made people read it. It was love or hate, maybe all that shouting in CAPS, but I really loved the characters and the synchronicity of the plot. I think John Irving loves his characters more than his readers.

    I always laugh when I find a bear or wrestler in his books, so much absurdity. His punctuation drives me nuts, I prefer less, not more.

    I gave up on Until I Find
    you, couldn't get hooked, and nearly gave up on Last Night in Twisted River, but I'm glad I hung in there, because, despite the bear, its about so much heartbreaking love that it made me cry, weeks after I read it. Cooking and familial love figure strongly in Twisted River. And I think it captures some of how twisted life can be.

    I think John Irving is too precious for his own good, and too demanding of his audience, but I've had some of my best reading experiences when I forgave his style and let him tell me a story.

    Based on your review, I doubt I'll be rushing to read his latest, though.

  7. Ah, John Irving.

    I absolutely LOVED The World According to Garp, but have not been able to finish a single other one of his books. However, The World According to Garp was so seminal for me, it is right up there with my all time favorite books, so I let him be.

    This post made me chuckle. The wrestling and the bears and the orphans and the hotels, well, I think they're just his touchstones.

    Another book I absolutely LOVED, and tried to get other people to read and love with no success, is Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler. I have never understood why that book just climbed right inside me and made a home, yet no one I love could get into it.

    We humans and un-figure-out-able. xo

  8. I dearly love certain of his books, and others I could take or leave. Garp, Hotel New Hampshire, Cider House Rules - all of those I've read a few times and enjoyed thoroughly. Owen Meany was okay, but I know a few people who loved it. Some of his newer stuff is just boring. I tend to love his characters. They're just so far from my experience in their New Englandness that they're like fantasy creatures to me.

  9. Blah blah blah on John Irving. Loved Garp, and I could take or leave the rest. (Although I was smitten, briefly, by the dog named Sorrow that became a rug. Did that really happen in a book, or am I making it up?) But I couldn't make it through Run Rabbit Run.

    Also, I have some kind of a disability when I'm supposed to type in the letters to prove I'm not a robot. Turns out I might just be a robot after all, because all the letters look alike to me. Take 3, we'll see if I can get it right this time!

    I love your new picture of the house.

  10. I find I either LOVE or HATE each John Irving book. I loved The Cider House Rules, A Prayer For Owen Meany, Garp, and Hotel New Hampshire. I hated A Son of the Circus, Setting Free the Bears, and The 158 Pound Marriage. Regardless of whether I hate or love one of his books, it takes me forever and a day to get into the plot. Like, halfway through the book before I even know whether I like it or not. That's why I usually finish them, because sometimes it's a slow build. But yeah, totally understand what you're saying.

  11. Angella, I love Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant too! I reread it regularly.

  12. SJ- I could not get through one chapter of Twilight and can't imagine how anyone else could either.

    Lulumarie-I agree totally. Since I am listening to this book and doing other things while I listen (walking, laundry, dishes, etc.) it is easier to go on with it. But that may end. It may well end.

    Photocat- Yes. You are right. We do not all have to like the same things.

    Elizabeth- Reading should not be a slog. I swear. Unless it's a semi-yummy slog, at least.

    Magnum- Can I tell you I love you?

    Mel- Well, I've gotten through more of this book than I have of any of his others lately so maybe it's a wonderful book if you like John Irving.

    Angella- I have read Dinner At The Homesick Restaurant twice and loved it both times. So there you go.

    DTG- Maybe I don't like fantasy.
    But I love you.

    Betsy- Thank you for commenting and hello! I think I'm a robot too. I do not remember the dog rug but it sounds right.

    Lora- Well, there you go. Some of us love him, some of us don't. Some of us love him sometimes. And so it goes.

  13. Angella, I loved Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant and thanks for reminding us ~ read it years ago and now I want to read it again! I often remember that I loved a book but don't remember the details.

  14. I don't think your take on John Irving is all that unusual, as you can probably see from all your comments. Most people love his early books like Garp and Hotel New Hampshire and Cider House Rules. (Me included.) But he's been on the decline since then. I didn't read anything after Cider. I was intrigued by this latest one, since he's apparently revealing his bisexuality or something like that, but if you and everyone else think it's so boring I'll back off!

    Angella, I loved Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant. The best Anne Tyler novel is "The Clock Winder," I think, but I've read virtually everything she's written. My only complaint about her is that she's a bit one note -- her books, although good, all seem to blend together after a while. I guess there's only so much you can say about melancholy people in Baltimore!

  15. I loved the grandmother in Owen Meany. In fact, I think I AM the grandmother in Owen Meany.

    Irving is one of the Moms and I's favorite authors of all time. Sometimes, certain authors that everybody thinks are great, I don't get AT ALL. They just don't communicate in a way that is easy for me to understand. We just don't speak the same damn language. Maybe that's the case with you and John Irving. Not sure.


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