Saturday, March 10, 2018

Author Spotlight: John Irving

I thought it might be fun and interesting to begin introducing you to some of my favorite authors. Some will be well known (such as this post's author) but I'll also try to introduce you some less well-known writers as well. In addition to introducing you to each author, I'll also tell you about their books that I have loved and why. I hope you enjoy this series and will let me know what you think.

My first choice for an Author Spotlight is quite well known, even to those who aren't into books and reading. Many of his books have been made into movies and his name is in many circles a household name. John Irving is definitely one of my all-time favorite writers. I have loved (almost) everything of his that I've read and he's an automatic buy for me. The moment I see a new Irving novel, I know it's coming home with me!

Who is John Irving?

John Irving published his first novel, Setting Free the Bears, in 1968. He has written thirteen novels over his career. Nine of the thirteen books have been international bestsellers. It was his fourth novel, The World According to Garp, that made him a household name. This novel won the National Book award in 1980 and became his first international bestseller. Many of his novels have been made into films including The World According to Garp, The Hotel New Hampshire, and The Cider House Rules. His best known novel is probably A Prayer for Owen Meany which is often cited as an American classic! 

Where Should You Start?

Most people would tell you to start with A Prayer for Owen Meany which is one of his most beloved books ! I've heard so many readers that I admire answer the question of what is your favorite book with this title! However, I am not a fan of this one ... it's one of the only Irving novels I've read that I just could not seem to connect with. I haven't given up on it and will try it again in the future but it isn't where I recommend that you start. 

I think a good place to start with Irving is The World According to Garp which is a classic for a reason. This was my first Irving novel and it marked the beginning of my love for John Irving and his writing. The book is at its most basic a coming of age story about one of the most interesting characters that I've encountered. One of my favorite things about John Irving is his ability to create characters that are so complex and interesting. They are almost always quirky and memorable. 

Some of my other favorites are The Hotel New Hampshire, The Cider House Rules, and A Widow for One Year. But, honestly, I've read eight of his novels and I recommend them all (except Meany - but I appear to be an outlier on that novel). The more of his work you read, the more you see the complexity of his characters and the interesting way he explores some of the same themes but in very different ways. One of my favorite parts of reading an Irving novel is looking for what I like to think of as 'Easter eggs' - the things you see over and over in his novels - such as bears, wrestling, writers, absentee fathers, studies of sexuality, and more! 


Why Is He One of My Favorite Authors?

After finishing The World According to Garp and The Hotel New Hampshire, I knew that I'd found an author that I connected with in such an intense way. I'd finish his novels and be sad to be finished. It's almost as if the characters were my friends and I was having a hard time letting them go. His work just seems to engulf me and my imagination to the point that I cannot forget his books or how they make me feel! He is so talented! His characters and the worlds he creates come alive for me in each and every book. I am always eagerly awaiting the next Irving novel! 

Now it's your turn ... Have you ever read a John Irving novel? If so, which one(s) and how did you like them? What is your favorite of his novels?

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