Irving, John (Winslow) 1942-

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IRVING, John (Winslow) 1942-

PERSONAL: Born March 2, 1942, in Exeter, NH; son of Colin F.N. (a teacher) and Frances (Winslow) Irving; married Shyla Leary, August 20, 1964 (divorced, 1981); married Janet Turnbull, June 6, 1987; children: (first marriage) Colin, Brendan, (second marriage) Everett. Education: University of New Hampshire, B.A. (cum laude), 1965; University of Iowa, M.F.A., 1967; additional study at University of Pittsburgh, 1961-62, and University of Vienna, 1963-64.

ADDRESSES: Home—Dorset, VT and Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Random House, 201 East 50th St., New York, NY 10022.

CAREER: Novelist. Windham College, Putney, VT, assistant professor of English, 1967-69, 1970-72; University of Iowa, Iowa City, writer-in-residence, 1972-75; Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA, assistant professor of English, 1975-78; Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, assistant professor of English, 1978-79. Teacher and reader at Bread Loaf Writers Conference, 1976. Phillips Exeter Academy, assistant wrestling coach, 1964-65; Northfield Mt. Hermon School, assistant wrestling coach, 1981-83; Fessenden School, assistant wrestling coach, 1984-86; Vermont Academy, head wrestling coach, 1987-89.

AWARDS, HONORS: Rockefeller Foundation grant, 1971-72; National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, 1974-75; Guggenheim fellow, 1976-77; The World according to Garp was nominated for a National Book Award in 1979 and won an American Book Award in 1980; named one of ten "Good Guys" honored for contributions furthering advancement of women, National Women's Political Caucus, 1988, for The Cider House Rules; Academy Award for screenplay based on material previously produced or published, 1999, for The Cider House Rules.


Setting Free the Bears (also see below), Random House (New York, NY), 1969.


Setting Free the Bears (also see below), Random House (New York, NY), 1969.

The Water-Method Man (also see below), Random House (New York, NY), 1972.

The 158-Pound Marriage (also see below), Random House (New York, NY), 1974.

The World according to Garp, Dutton (New York, NY), 1978.

Three by Irving (contains Setting Free the Bears, The Water-Method Man, and The 158-Pound Marriage), Random House (New York, NY), 1980.

The Hotel New Hampshire, Dutton (New York), 1981.

The Cider House Rules, Morrow (New York, NY), 1985.

A Prayer for Owen Meany, Morrow (New York, NY), 1989.

Son of the Circus, Random House (New York, NY), 1994.

Trying to Save Piggy Sneed, Arcade (New York, NY), 1996.

The Imaginary Girlfriend: A Memoir (autobiography), Random House (New York, NY), 1996.

A Widow for One Year, Random House (New York, NY), 1998.

The Cider House Rules: A Screenplay (produced by Miramax, 1999), Hyperion (New York, NY), 1999.

My Movie Business: A Memoir, Random House (New York, NY), 1999.

The Fourth Hand, Random House (New York, NY), 2001.

Also contributor of short stories to Esquire, New York Times Book Review, Playboy, and other magazines; contributor of introduction to Leah, New Hampshire: The Collected Stories of Thomas Williams, Graywolf Press, 1993. Irving's manuscripts are collected at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire.

ADAPTATIONS: The World according to Garp was released by Warner Bros./Pan Arts in 1982 and starred Robin Williams, Glenn Close, and Mary Beth Hurt, and featured cameo performances by Irving and his sons; The Pension Grillparzer, based on portions of The World according to Garp, was adapted for the stage by director Mollie Bryce and produced in Hollyood, CA, 2004. The Hotel New Hampshire was released by Orion Pictures in 1984 and starred Rob Lowe, Jodie Foster, and Beau Bridges; The Cider House Rules was adapted for the stage by Peter Parnell and produced in Seattle, WA, 1996; Simon Birch, based on Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany, was released by Buena Vista Pictures in 1998; The Door in the Floor, based on Irving's A Widow for One Year, was released by Focus Features in 2004. Irving's novels have been adapted as audiobooks by Random Audio.

WORK IN PROGRESS: A screenplay version of The Fourth Hand, for Miramax.

SIDELIGHTS: Novelist John Irving is praised as a storyteller with a fertile imagination and a penchant for meshing the comic and the tragic. As Saturday Review critic Scot Haller explained, "Fashioning wildly inventive, delightfully intricate narratives out of his sense of humor, sense of dread and sense of duty, Irving blends the madcap, the macabre, and the mundane into sprawling, spiraling comedies of life." Irving is perhaps best known for his critically acclaimed bestseller The World according to Garp, which sold more than three million copies in hardback and paperback following its 1978 publication. The novel achieved a cult status—complete with T-shirts proclaiming "I Believe in Garp"—and received serious critical attention, the two combining to propel the novel's author "into the front rank of America's young novelists," according to Time critic R. Z. Sheppard.

Though a contemporary novelist, Irving's concerns are traditional, a characteristic some critics have cited as distinguishing Irving's work from that of other contemporary fiction writers. Dictionary of Literary Biography contributor Hugh M. Ruppersburg, for example, wrote that "The concerns of Irving's novels are inherently contemporary. Yet often they bear little similarity to other recent fiction, for their author is more interested in affirming certain conventional values—art and the family, for instance—than in condemning the status quo or heralding the arrival of a new age. . . . What is needed, [Irving] seems to suggest, is a fusion of the compassion and common sense of the old with the egalitarian openmindedness of the new." Irving himself likens his fictional values and narrative technique to those of nineteenth-century writers. "I occasionally feel like a dinosaur in my own time because my fictional values are terribly old-fashioned," he stated in Los Angeles Times. "They go right back to the deliberately sentimental intentions of the 19th-century novelist: Create a character in whom the reader will make a substantial emotional investment and then visit upon that character an unbearable amount of pain." Like those nineteenth-century novelists, Irving also believes that he is responsible for entertaining the reader. "I think, to some degree, entertainment is the responsibility of literature," Irving told Haller. "I really am looking upon the novel as an art form that was at its best when it was offered as a popular form. By which I probably mean the 19th century."

Irving's nineteenth-century values are reflected in The World according to Garp, a work he described in Washington Post Book World as "an artfully disguised soap opera." "The difference is that I write well," Irving added, "that I construct a book with the art of construction in mind, that I use words intentionally and carefully. I mean to make you laugh, to make you cry; those are soap-opera intentions, all the way." A lengthy family saga, the novel focuses on nurse Jenny Fields, her illegitimate son, novelist T. S. Garp, and Garp's wife and two sons. Described as a "disquieting" work by New Republic contributor Terrence Des Pres, The World according to Garp explicitly explores the violent side of contemporary life. Episodes involving rape, assassination, mutilation, and suicide abound, but these horrific scenes are always infused with comedy. As Irving noted in Los Angeles Times, "No matter how gray the subject matter or orientation of any novel I write, it's still going to be a comic novel."

"A true romantic hero," according to Village Voice critic Eliot Fremont-Smith, Garp is obsessed with the perilousness of life and wants nothing more than to keep the world safe for his family and friends. Ironically then, Garp is the one who ultimately inflicts irreversible harm on his children, illustrating Irving's point that "the most protective and unconditionally loving parents can inflict the most appalling wounds on their children," explained Pearl K. Bell in Commentary. While Garp is obsessed with protecting his family and friends, his mother's obsession involves promoting her status as a "sexual suspect"—a woman who refuses to share either her life or her body with a man. Through her best-selling autobiography A Sexual Suspect, Jenny becomes a feminist leader. Her home evolves into a haven for a group of radical feminists, The Ellen James Society, whose members have cut out their tongues as a show of support for a young girl who was raped and similarly mutilated by her attackers. Both Garp and Jenny eventually are assassinated—she by an outraged anti-feminist convinced that Jenny's influence ruined his marriage and Garp by an Ellen Jamesian convinced he is an exploiter of women because of a novel he wrote about rape. Discussing these characters in a Publishers Weekly interview with Barbara A. Bannon, Irving remarked, "It mattered very fiercely to me that [Garp and Jenny] were people who would test your love of them by being the extremists they were. I always knew that as mother and son they would make the world angry at them."

Critics have noted that The World according to Garp demonstrates a timely sensitivity to women—an acknowledgment by Irving of the growing women's liberation movement of the late twentieth century—because it deals sympathetically with issues such as rape, feminism, and sexual roles. Nation contributor Michael Malone wrote, "With anger, chagrin and laughter, Irving anatomizes the inadequacies and injustices of traditional sex roles. . . . The force behind a memorable gallery of women characters—foremost among them, Garp's famous feminist mother and his English professor wife—is not empathy but deep frustrated sympathy." A similar opinion was expressed by Ms. contributor Lindsy Van Gelder, who admitted admiration for Irving's ability to explore "feminist issues from rape to sexual identity to Movement stardom . . . minus any Hey-I'm-a-man-but-I-really understand self-conscious fanfare." Irving explained in Los Angeles Times, however, that his "interest in women as a novelist is really very simple. . . . I see every evidence that women are more often victims than men. As a novelist I'm more interested in victims than in winners." In fact, Irving flatly disagrees with critics who describe The World according to Garp in sociological or political terms. He stated in an interview with Larry McCaffery: "Obviously now when people write about Garp and say that it's 'about' feminism and assassination and the violence of the sixties, they're ignoring the fact that I lived half of the sixties in another country. I don't know anything about the violence of the sixties; it's meaningless to me. I'm not a sociological writer, nor should I be considered a social realist in any way."

Despite its fairytale-like qualities, Irving's The Hotel New Hampshire explores adult issues like incest, terrorism, suicide, freakish deaths, and gang rape, all infused with the novelist's trademark macabre humor. A family saga in the tradition of The World according to Garp, The Hotel New Hampshire spans nearly four generations of the troubled Berry family. Headed by Win, a charming but irresponsible dreamer who is ultimately a failure at innkeeping, and Mary, who dies in the early stages of the novel, the Berry family includes five children: Franny, Frank, Egg, Lilly, and John, the narrator. While Egg perishes along with his mother, the remaining children are left to struggle through childhood and adolescence. Irving reflected on the Berry family in New York: The Hotel New Hampshire "takes a large number of people and says in every family we have a dreamer, a hero, a late bloomer, one who makes it very big, one who doesn't make it at all, one who never grows up, one who is the shit detector, the guide to practicality, and often you don't know who these people will be, watching them in their earlier years."

The Berrys, along with an array of subsidiary characters—human and animal—eventually inhabit three hotels: one in New Hampshire, one in Vienna, and one in Maine. According to Irving, the hotels are symbols for the passage from infancy to maturity. "The first hotel is the only real hotel in the story," stated Irving in New York. "It is childhood. The one in Vienna is a dark, foreign place, that phase called adolescence, when you begin leaving the house and finding out how frightening the world is. . . . The last one is no hotel at all. . . . It is a place to get well again, which is a process that has been going on throughout the novel."

Following such a phenomenally successful work, The Hotel New Hampshire naturally invited comparisons to its predecessor. "There is no question in my mind it's better than The World According to Garp," Irving maintained in New York. "It certainly is every bit as big a book, and it means much more. It's a more ambitious novel symbolically but with a different point of view, deliberately narrower." Irving nevertheless anticipated that critics would reject the novel. As he stated in Chicago Tribune Book World: "There will be people gunning for me—they'll call the book lazy, or worse—sentimental. But getting bad press is better than no press. It's better to be hated than to be ignored—even children know that."

In fact, critics' opinions largely fulfilled Irving's dismal prediction. Chicago Tribune Book World contributor Judith Rossner, for example, noted, "I found an emptiness at the core of The Hotel New Hampshire that might relate to the author's having used up his old angers and familiar symbols without having found new reasons for his rage and different bodies to make us see it." Saturday Review critic Scot Haller wrote that The Hotel New Hampshire "could not be mistaken for the work of any other writer, but unfortunately, it cannot be mistaken for Irving's best novel, either. It lacks the urgency of Setting Free the Bears, the bittersweet wit of The 158-Pound Marriage, the sly setups of Garp. The haphazardness that afflicts these characters' lives has seeped into the storytelling, too." Time critic R. Z. Sheppard offered the view that, un-like Garp's story, "John Berry's story is not resolved in violent, dramatic action, but in a quiet balancing of sorrow and hope. It is a difficult act, and it is not faultless. The dazzling characterizations and sense of American place in the first part of the novel tend to get scuffed in transit to Europe. There are tics and indulgences. But the book is redeemed by the healing properties of its conclusion. Like a burlesque Tempest, Hotel New Hampshire puts the ordinary world behind, evokes a richly allusive fantasy and returns to reality refreshed and strengthened."

Originally intended to be a saga of orphanage life in early twentieth-century Maine, Irving's sixth novel, The Cider House Rules, instead became a statement on abortion. The issue of abortion arose during Irving's research for the novel, when he "discovered that abortion was an integral part of the life of an orphanage hospital at that time," as he later explained in Los Angeles Times. "This is in part a didactic novel, and in part a polemic," he added. "I'm not ashamed of that. . . . But I remain uncomfortable at the marriage between politics and fiction. I still maintain that the politics of abortion came to this book organically, came to it cleanly."

Evoking the works of Victorian novelists such as Charles Dickens and Charlotte Brontë, Irving's The Cider House Rules is set in an orphanage in dreary St. Cloud, Maine, where the gentle, ether-addicted Dr. Larch and his saintly nurses preside lovingly over their orphans. Larch also provides illegal but safe abortions, and although he is painfully aware of the bleak existence many of the orphans endure, he does not encourage expectant mothers to abort. As he puts it, "I help them have what they want. An orphan or an abortion." One unadopted orphan in particular, Homer Wells, becomes Larch's spiritual son and protege. Larch schools Homer in birth and abortion procedures in the hope that Homer will one day succeed him at the orphanage. When Homer comes to believe that the fetus has a soul, however, he refuses to assist with abortions. A conflict ensues, and Homer seeks refuge at Ocean View apple orchard, located on the coast of Maine.

The book's title refers to the list of rules posted in Ocean View's cider house regarding migrant workers' behavior. Several critics acknowledged the significance of rules, both overt and covert, in the lives of the characters. Toronto Globe and Mail contributor Joy Fielding, for example, commented that The Cider House Rules "is all about rules; the rules we make and break; the rules we ignore; the rules we post for all to see; the invisible rules we create for ourselves to help us get through life; the absurdity of some of these rules and the hypocrisy of others, specifically our rules regarding abortion." Similarly, Los Angeles Times critic Elaine Kendall wrote that "Much is made of the literal Cider House Rules, a typed sheet posted in the migrant workers dormitory, clearly and politely spelling out the behavior expected by the owners of the orchard. Sensible and fair as these rules are, they're made to be broken, interpreted individually or ignored entirely, heavily symbolic of the social and moral codes Irving is exploring." New York Times reviewer Christopher Lehmann-Haupt similarly noted that Dr. Larch follows his own rules and that "the point—which is driven home with the sledgehammer effect that John Irving usually uses—is that there are always multiple sets of rules for a given society. Heroism lies in discovering the right ones, whether they are posted on the wall or carved with scalpels, and committing yourself to follow them no matter what."

Despite the multiplicity of rules and moral codes explored by Irving, critics tend to focus on abortion as the crucial issue of The Cider House Rules. They have expressed different opinions, however, concerning Irving's position on the abortion issue. Time critic Paul Gray commented that The Cider House Rules "is essentially about abortions and women's right to have them," and Susan Brownmiller described the work in Chicago Tribune as "a heartfelt, sometimes moving tract in support of abortion rights." Kendall, on the other hand, maintained that, "Though Dr. Larch's philosophy justifying his divided practice is exquisitely and closely reasoned, the abortion episodes are graphic and gruesome, as if Irving were simultaneously courting both pro-choice and right-to-life factions." New York Times Book Review contributor Benjamin DeMott offered this view: "The knowledge and sympathy directing Mr. Irving's exploration of the [abortion] issue are exceptional. Pertinent history, the specifics of surgical procedure, the irrecusable sorrow of guilt and humiliation, the needs and rights of children—their weight is palpable in these pages."

Remarking in a Time interview that he has been "moved and impressed by people with a great deal of religious faith," Irving explained to Michael Anderson in New York Times Book Review that "Jesus has always struck me as a perfect victim and a perfect hero." What impresses the novelist most is that Christ is aware of his own destiny: "That is truly a heroic burden to carry," he told Phyllis Robinson in Book-of-the-Month Club News. In his novel A Prayer for Owen Meany, which examines the good and evil—especially the capacity of each to be mistaken for the other—Irving's Christ-like hero knows his destiny, including the date and circumstances of his death. Small in size but large in spirit, Owen Meany has a distinctive but ineffable voice caused by a fixed larynx, and throughout the novel, Irving renders Owen's speech in upper case—suggested to him by the red letters in which Jesus's utterances appear in the New Testament. Believing that nothing in his life is accidental or purposeless, Owen professes himself an instrument of God, and his sacrifices result in the gradual conversion of his best friend, and the book's narrator, Johnny Wheelwright. "No one has ever done Christ in the way John Irving does Him in A Prayer for Owen Meany," maintained Stephen King in his review of the novel for Washington Post Book World.

In a Time review, Sheppard pointed out that "anyone familiar with Irving's mastery of narrative technique, his dark humor and moral resolve also knows his fiction is cute like a fox." Sheppard suggested that, despite its theological underpinnings, A Prayer for Owen Meany "scarcely disguise[s] his indignation about the ways of the world," and actually represents "a fable of political predestination." Although finding the book flawed in terms of its structure and development, Robert Olen Butler suggested in Chicago Tribune Books that it nevertheless contains "some of the elements that made The World According to Garp so attractive to the critics and the bestseller audience alike: flamboyant, even bizarre, characters; unlikely and arresting plot twists; a consciousness of contemporary culture; and the assertion that a larger mechanism is at work in the universe."

More bizarre characters and situations await readers of Irving's A Son of the Circus. Dr. Farrokkh Daruwalla is an Indian-born orthopedist who lives in Canada but makes periodic trips to India to work at a children's hospital, conduct genetic research on circus dwarfs, and write second-rate screenplays. As packed with characters and motifs that have come to be seen as characteristically Irving, A Son of the Circus, nevertheless disappointed some reviewers. "The quirkiness with which the author customarily endows privileged characters is . . . scarce here," observed Webster Johnson in Times Literary Supplement. "In fact, Daruwalla and the rest incline towards the lacklustre; any colour derives chiefly from the compound incidents which entangle them." Bharati Mukherjee wrote in Washington Post Book World that the novel is Irving's "most daring and most vibrant. And though it is also his least satisfying, it has a heroic cheekiness. . . . But its very energy and outrageousness make it compete with rather than complement the tragic story of people. . . . Irving India-surfs himself into exhaus tion until the subcontinent becomes, for the reader as well as for one of his characters, neither symbol nor place but a blur of alarming images."

Ruth Cole is the protagonist of A Widow for One Year, a novel that explores the nature of fiction writing through several of its characters. When the novel opens on Long Island in 1958, four-year-old Ruth witnesses the dissolution of her parents' marriage, which has suffered under the strain of the tragic death of the couple's teenage sons in a car accident before Ruth was born. Each of her parents drowns their pain in different ways; her father with women and alcohol, and her mother by turning their suburban home into a shrine for her dead sons. After Ruth's mother has an affair with her husband's teen-aged assistant, she abandons both her husband and daughter. Eddie O'Hare, the object of Ruth's mother's affections, looks back on the affair years later, writes a novel about the romance, and becomes part of Ruth's literary circle.

The second two sections of the book take place in the 1990s, where tragedy continues to follow Ruth. Now an adult, she finds her father in bed with her best friend, a betrayal that ultimately results in her father's suicide and a spiteful sexual encounter for Ruth that turns violent. She also becomes a famous author, loses her husband, writes a novel called A Widow for One Year, and becomes embroiled in the seamy side of Amsterdam during a book tour held where a serial killer is on the loose. Despite its complex plot, A Widow for One Year is, at its core, an exploration of writers and writing. The prominence of writers in the story, Michiko Kakutani explained in New York Times, is "to make some points about the ordering impulses of art and the imaginative transactions made by artists in grappling with the real world."

A Widow for One Year met with generally favorable reviews. Although Candia McWilliam described the novel in her New Statesman review as a book "in which too many women, alas, behave like men," she complimented Irving's "themes of bereavement and creativity, of love between young men and older women, of widowhood and human hope reborn." Kakutani noted that, while the novel is full of unbelievable coincidences and characters that border on caricature, Ruth is a "complex, conflicted woman" and Irving's "authoritative narrative steamrolls over the contrivances, implausibilities and antic excesses . . . to create an engaging and often affecting fable, a fairy tale that manages to be old-fashioned and modern all at once." William H. Pritchard, writing in New York Times Book Review, called A Widow for One Year one of Irving's best, commenting that "the writing is very much of the surface, strongly, sometimes even cruelly, outlined, unfriendly to ambiguity and vacillation, secure in its brisk dispositions of people and place."

In The Fourth Hand Irving's farcical tendencies are again at play. While a television reporter is on assignment covering a circus in India, his hand is eaten by a lion, the tragedy recorded on live television. The victim, Patrick Wallingford, is a handsome man, prone to affairs with women, who had cruised through life on his charm. Now he is known as the Lion Guy and, instead of attracting attractive women, he becomes a magnet for more offbeat characters. A recently widowed Green Bay, Wisconsin, woman, after her husband is killed in a freak accident, wants Patrick to have her husband's hand. In return, however, she requests visitation rights with the hand and the opportunity to be impregnated by Patrick. A deal is struck, and the anorexic and excrement-obsessed Dr. Zajac of Boston announces that he will perform the world's first hand transplant. Irving uses the character of Patrick to parody the empty world of television news broadcasting and the media's unending fascination with gruesome destruction. In the end, however, Irving turns the story into a tale of love's powers of redemption.

Recognizing Irving's trademark idiosyncratic characters and unlikely scenarios, along with his frequent themes of family and morality, several critics opined that The Fourth Hand treads ground that is too familiar. Paul Gray wrote in Time that the novel "offers the same mix of the macabre and the moral that Irving's army of admirers has come to expect" but maintained that the vapid Patrick cannot hold readers' interest. "Faced with a virtual cipher at the center of his tale, Irving works energetically to create distractions around the edges," Gray explained. Other critics had more appreciation for the novel's storyline. "Irving's worlds are ludicrous in the most appealing way and expertly sentimental at the same time," wrote Doug McClemont in Library Journal, "and his approachable language can be both musical and magical." Bonnie Schiedel, writing in Chatelaine, called The Fourth Hand "downright weird. . . . but also funny and bracingly original," while Caroline Moore in Spectator summarized the symbolism inherent in the novel's title: "It is the phantom 'fourth hand' of the imagination which . . . can bridge the gap between voyeurism and compassion, sensationalism and empathy."

Trying to Save Piggy Sneed collects Irving's non-novel works: memoirs, short stories, and homage pieces. "The Imaginary Girlfriend" details Irving's career as an amateur wrestler and coach and touches on his development as a writer, while other essays present homage to authors Günther Grass and Charles Dickens. The fiction section includes "Pension Grillparzer"—which originally appeared in The World according to Garp—and five other short stories. In New York Times Book Review, Sven Birkerts stated that Trying to Save Piggy Sneed "shows how one of our most widely read novelists fares in what he might consider a triathlon of lesser events. What we find, in this order, are disappointment, confirmations and surprises."

Because of their visual imagery and action, many of Irving's novels have been adapted for film, sometimes on the basis of the novelist's own screenplay. Irving's quest to adapt The Cider House Rules for film is the subject of My Movie Business, which was published in tandem with the film's release in 1999. The book also covers adaptations from Irving's other novels—from scripts that he did not write—and his experience writing his first screenplay for Setting Free the Bears. Along the way, he elaborates on his pro-choice stance, the history of abortion in the United States, and his grandfather's career as an obstetrician.

As Irving explains in his book, in some ways, the story of The Cider House Rules encompasses all facets of the Hollywood movie industry. The film was thirteen years in the making. The script went through numerous revisions and directors came and went before Lasse Hallstrom signed on and the film was made. Along the way, Irving had to confront some harsh realities, notably trimming his first draft from nine hours down to a more theater-friendly two. This severe editorial surgery required leaving out many characters and subplots, but the novelist's efforts paid off when he won an Academy Award for best screenplay. "Irving comes off as a testy collaborator with a decidedly anemic view of the screenwriting process," Jonathan Bing maintained in Variety. However, Benjamin Svetkey wrote in Entertainment Weekly that My Movie Business contains "sweetly personal moments" and would well-serve readers looking for "a charming, sublimely written technical primer" on the movie industry.

Although he is not a prolific novelist, Irving remains highly popular with the reading public, as well as with moviegoers through his increasing activity as a screenwriter. Afforded the opportunity due to his stature within American letters, he regularly and publicly debates the nature and worth of novelists and their works, and in doing so, "he brings a gladiatorial spirit to the literary arena," wrote a critic for Maclean's. Long a proponent of character and plot driven fiction, Irving has been compared to such luminaries as Dickens and Henry James, both of whom had a similar preoccupation with the moral choices and failings of their characters. Maclean's writer concluded that, "in a postmodern world, Irving remains stubbornly unfashionable—a writer of sprawling yarns knotted with subplots." Making a similar comparison, Caroline Moore noted that "the greatest popular artists—from Dickens to Chaplin—are circus-lovers and showmen, with an unabashed streak of sentimentality and sensationalism. . . . Irving at his best, combining the grotesque, tragic and warm-hearted, has something of their quality."



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Time, April 24, 1978; August 31, 1981, pp. 46-51; June 3, 1985; April 3, 1989, p. 80; July 16, 2001, Paul Gray, "The Sound of One Hand Clapping: John Irving's New Novel Proves Disappointing," p. 72.

Times (London), June 20, 1985.

Times Literary Supplement, October 20, 1978; June 21, 1985; April 9, 1993, p. 21; September 2, 1994, p. 11; March 22, 1996, p. 30.

Tribune Books (Chicago), March 19, 1989.

Variety, March 6, 2000, Jonathan Bing, review of My Movie Business, p. 52.

Village Voice, May 22, 1978.

Washington Post, August 25, 1981.

Washington Post Book World, April 30, 1978; May 19, 1985; March 5, 1989; September 4, 1994, p. 5; January 21, 1996, p. 4.

Writer, January, 2002, Dorman T. Schindler, "In High Gear: John Irving Is Writing More than Ever and Loving It," p. 28.


Irving according to Irving (film), Landmark Media (Falls Church, VA), 2001.*

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Irving, John (Winslow) 1942-

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