John Irving's Latest Novel
I spent the morning listening to a long and interesting interview with John Irving, the novelist,on the CBC ( Blessed is non-commercial radio where intelligent conversations can be found). It was very informative about him, the writing process, the themes of his novels (12 as of now) and something about his latest novel, Last Night in Twisted River.
I am not a frequent reader of novels, although if I think back I have managed to read a number of outstanding ones in my time. A few years ago, I got excited about Appalachian literature and read several novels which I thoroughly enjoyed and which gave me a greater appreciation of the worth and pleasure in novel reading.
I don't know if academics group modern novelists from New England as New England literature but there are a few which I have read at least one novel from, such as John Updike and of course, Kurt Vonnegut. Most of the novels are set in the Northeastern part of the US, which I know and love having lived there for several years.
Unfortunately, I must admit I have not read any of John Irving's novels although I have experienced his cultural impact by seeing the movies made from his novels. (Not the best way to appreciate a novelist's work) They were Cider House Rules and The Hotel New Hampshire.
Most readers of his novels will have read his most successful one, The World According to Garp.
Well, the interview with John Irving got my juices flowing. Being the irrepressible researcher I am I looked up articles on him on the Internet. There are several excellent articles on his biography and his body of work.
http://john-irving.com/About_John_Irving_full.asp Read the essay, recommended by John Irving, about his work, by Terrence Des Pres
One questions which spurred me on was, "What was his connection with Toronto. It was not immediately obvious for he seemed well rooted in New England, living in the Green Mountains of Vermont. He mentioned that his characters in his latest novel fled to Toronto. In reading the synopsis of his novels on his personal website, I noticed at least three other novels made a reference to Toronto. I finally learned that he lived part time in Toronto as his second wife is a Canadian, from Toronto. It was interesting that this fact was not discussed in the interview, even though it took place in Toronto.
The other thing that caught my eye was the use of the iconic twisted Pine tree often found on the rugged windy rocky shore of Georgian Bay on the cover of his novel. The Canadian school of artists, the Group of Seven often painted the rugged Canadian landscape of the Canadian Shield. A. J. Casson painted one of the most familiar Canadian scenes featuring a lone pine tree bravely surviving in a beatiful but torturous land. (How Canadian is that?) It resonates with the myth of ourselves that we are a hearty Northern people surviving within a beautify landscape. (Some us do anyway. There are too many who do not want to venture too far away from the urban centers crowding the American border.)
The White Pine A. J. Casson
This blog entry is not meant to be a book review. They tell me you have to have read a book before reviewing it, (Although I must admit to reviewing a couple of books in college which I have yet to read.) I did find the discussion about this book interesting, enough such that I will put it on my Christmas wish list. I connect with this book in a couple of ways. While it opens in Maine I know a little about logging and lumber camps, which are historically part of the region I live it. It is also about a father and son relationship after the mother was not longer there. Such was our life. It is a story of flight which my life has been, not in a physical sense but psychologically. I too have been hiding out in the northwood. Of course, I know Toronto so it will be interesting to have that city as background. I also know the Georgian Bay coast around Pointe au Baril, which I believe is a location in this novel. I look forward to reading this well crafted tale.
Below is a video of John Irving speaking about his novel and some of the ideas behind it. If you watch closely there is a view of him standing before a weathered wind shaped pine tree, the iconic type found on the cover of his book.
I was touched by John Irving's opening comment about people dropping into your life suddenly. Just as suddenly as people often leaving it in spite of your assuming they will always be a part of your life. And, we should love these people because of their temporal existence in our lives.
This has happened to me a couple of times in my life. Very recently it happened again when an old grade school chum dropped in on my life, quite unexpectedly for both of us. It is a lovely and promising reunion.
I think I will be reading more of John Irving's books. A couple have caught my eye and seem to resonate with my life experience: 158-Pound Marriage, Widow for One Year, Until I Find You and Prayer for Owen Meany.
I would be interested to know which of John Irving's books other's have read and how did they enjoy them.