Without question, my favourite authors are John Irving and Henry James. I like them for much the same reason – their characters are so finely detailed that as the stories unfold you know EXACTLY why they behave the way they do. In fact, at a certain point, the characters actions need no explanation because you, the reader, understand them intimately. So you couldn’t imagine my surprise when, whilst reading Irving’s memoir, The Imaginary Girlfriend, he mentions that one of his least liked authors is Henry James (Graham Greene being the favourite)!
The list of my most favourite books is peppered with Irving. If someone asks me which Irving novel they should read first, I’m paralysed by indecision.
I love The Hotel New Hampshire for its introduction to Irving’s trademarks – bears, New England, wrestling and Vienna. But then there’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, heartbreaking, beautiful and a story that stays with you. Likewise, is the epic tale The Cider House Rules, a portion of which Irving later adapted for the screen. The movie version of The Cider House Rules was on television recently – I cried solidly for nearly two hours, a mixture of sorrow and happiness. That’s Irving for you.
The most recent book by Irving that I read was Last Night in Twisted River. It’s incredible. There are a couple of turns in the plot that hit you like a punch in the guts and then leave you reeling. If you want to read the work of a powerful storyteller, this is the book for you.
Like any prominent author, Irving has been asked repeatedly about his writing process. I find it amazing that he always ‘begins at the end’. He once said –
“I spend about two to three months planning the path of the book in my head before I write the last sentence of the novel. From there I work back to the beginning. From the day I think of the last sentence to the book’s publication date, not more than a semicolon has changed.”
Although I never look at the last page of a book until I’m actually there, knowing this about Irving’s stories makes it very, very tempting!
Needless to say, I’m COUNTING DOWN THE DAYS until Irving’s next novel, In One Person, is released on May 10 (in the US, which makes it May 11 for us!). I’ve pre-ordered it on my Kindle and I’ll be refreshing my home-screen every hour until it appears. Irving introduces the book and his main character in this clip –
And to whet the appetite, here’s Irving reading from In One Person –
And in even more good news for Irving fans, his fourteenth novel is in the works and tentatively scheduled for 2015. Asked about the not-yet-written fourteenth novel, Irving said “As for right now, I am thinking of four ideas, but I haven’t chosen one: a ghost story, a miracle story, a love story, an adoption story.”