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Review: Last Night In Twisted River, by John Irving - The Annals of Young Geoffrey: Hope brings a turtle [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
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Review: Last Night In Twisted River, by John Irving [May. 11th, 2011|01:42 pm]
Young Geoffrey
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A Prayer for John Irving

The ageing writer stared out at the reader with all the intensity of an old athlete in denial. His fierce eyes and tight-lipped smile were islands of fading youth set amid the ragged 'scape of a craggy face topped by a shock of thinning grey hair brushed defiantly backwards, exposing a hairline receding like a melting glacier.

The reader was reminded of the hockey player Guy Lafleur during his last year as a Montreal Canadien, the team he had led to five Stanley Cups in the 1970s. The hockey player had been in slow decline for three years, become precipitous during the 1984-1985 season. The former 50 goal scorer managed a mere two in 19 games before hanging up his skates

There was no obvious reason for the hockey player's inability to score. To the reader, it seemed the hockey player could skate as fast, shoot the puck as hard, as he ever had; if anything, it looked like he skated faster than he once had — but maybe that was an illusion, a mirage, born of the fact that, though the old athlete's competitive spirit was as fierce as ever (or fiercer!), he had to work much harder even to almost accomplish what he had once made look easy.

But writers are not hockey players and analogies are treacherous tools. If some writers burn out early, as if they only had one or two books in them, others produce at a steady, life-long, pace without major ups or downs; still others — a minority, but not not a tiny minority — go out with a bang, leaving a masterpiece as their final legacy. Consider Joseph Heller, consider John le Carré, consider Mordechai Richler, as exemplars of the three types.

And consider John Irving's most recent novel, a long, a meandering and a very dull tome from a writer the reader is now certain ought to have retired once the first signs of auctorial impairment — a tendency to have his character give voice to the writer's political opinions — surfaced in the narrative of his last good book, A Prayer for Owen Meanie. (See A Widow for One Year for an especially egregious example.)

So let us consider Last Night In Twisted River. Full review, some spoilers, at Edifice Rex Online.

This entry was originally posted at http://ed-rex.dreamwidth.org/219800.html. Comment there using OpenID, or here as per normal.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: mijopo
2011-05-11 08:36 pm (UTC)
thanks for the heads up, but after my experience with "Son of the Circus" I wasn't likely to be tempted. Your link here doesn't work (the one on the dreamwidth version does)
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2011-05-11 08:44 pm (UTC)

And thanks for yours!

I don't know how that happened; as you can see, this was ported over from Dreamwidth, and that usually works flawlessly (the target="_blank" tag was missing, too).

As for Irving, I wouldn't have been, but a couple of people (including *kaff* someone on my LJ flist) were pretty adamant it was a return to form. But yeah, I think I'm really done now.

I might do a re-read of Garp, though.
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[User Picture]From: jamiewho
2011-05-12 03:36 am (UTC)
Maybe it's a fault of mine - that I just read what's written on the page and leave it at that - but I really enjoy John Irving, Twisted River included. *shrug* It wasn't my favourite of his, but I didn't think it was that bad.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2011-05-19 04:41 pm (UTC)

Have you read others?

I rather suspect you have, but I ask because I suspect I would have liked Twisted River better (if maybe not a lot better) if it had been my first Irving rather than my 7th or 8th or whatever. Some of the tricks and tics and mannerisms that bothered me because of their familiarity would probably have seemed fresher to me.
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[User Picture]From: jamiewho
2011-05-19 05:42 pm (UTC)

Re: Have you read others?

*laugh* Yes, I have. Twisted River probably was the 7th or 8th Irving novel I've read.

I don't know, I actually enjoy the way he uses some of the same things throughout his books.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2011-05-19 05:49 pm (UTC)

Re: Have you read others?

I figured as much; it wasn't a hypothesis in which I had a lot of confidence.

Well, you're in good company. A lot of people (even some right here!) think I'm out to lunch on this book!
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[User Picture]From: miyyu
2011-05-12 10:10 am (UTC)
I'm disappointed you didn't like it. It wasn't his best work, but I didn't think it was nearly as bad as you felt. I thought Ketchum was a fantastic character.

I somewhat see your point about him using his characters as mouthpieces. It is one of his flaws. But every writer does this to an extent, it's just a question of style.

I don't have time to read your whole review atm, but I will when I get home from work tonight.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2011-05-19 04:45 pm (UTC)

Me as well

Obviously, I was disappointed to; our opinions mesh pretty close more often than not so I opened it feeling pretty hopeful. But them's the breaks.

But every writer does this to an extent, it's just a question of style.

Well ... not quite. And I don't think Irving used to do it, at least not so blatantly. Okay, Garp ... Hmm, the Ellen James Society wasn't exactly subtle satire, was it?

Maybe I like it less now, because he's so specific? Or even, because I feel like he's pandering to my own beliefs?

Or maybe it's because I feel like the same guy has been doing the ranting through the last few books of his, rather than different characters randing as characters, about things specific to that book's particular plot.

Yes, I think that last is what bothers me most.
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