Thursday, January 05, 2006

King of Mice

I am presently about 50 pages into John Irving's A Widow for One Year, and I'm already hooked. The question, of course, with an Irving novel, is whether I'll stay hooked throughout the rest of it. All of his works are long--I've read critiques that compare him to Dickens, and I suppose the main difference between them is that, as far as I know, Irving is NOT paid by the word--and some books can be a challenge to get through. Irving is not a subtle writer; he explains pretty much everything, and he sometimes smacks you with symbolism until your eyes want to bleed and you want to scream, "Quit it! I get it already!"

But I really like him, although I haven't read much of his recent work. Aside from this one, I guess the most recent I read was A Prayer for Owen Meany, and I almost gave up on that one, for the reasons listed above. But I plowed through, and the ending definitely justified everything else. My favorites, though, are all oldies that I've read several times each: The Water-Method Man (arguably the funniest of his books), The World According to Garp (which is about a writer), and The Hotel New Hampshire (which, along with Garp, includes all the early Irving trademarks: bears, wrestling, New England, Austria, rape, death of a child). The 158-Pound Marriage is the only novel of his that I really disliked and would never recommend--the characters are all hateful, and the story was indulgent. Setting Free the Bears, his first novel, is flawed but interesting.

Thus far, Garp is my favorite. What's your favorite? Or, what do you think of Irving?


Blogger Jen said...

I liked Garp better than Hotel New Hamsphire. I read both back when I was a teenager, so I'd have to read them again to give my opinion on Irving. So many things have change regarding my literary taste and understanding of effective literature since high school! (I mean, I thought The Fountainhead was earth-shattering that time.)

11:25 AM  
Blogger Karin said...

You haven't read Cider House Rules? That's a good one.

11:31 AM  

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