52% intelligent. 9% modest. More monkey than bear.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

We didn’t get wet, we didn’t dare

Good news and bad news.

The good news is that one of my favourite authors, John Irving, has just published a new book: "Until I Find You". It's a nice juicy big one too, coming in at over 800 pages.

Usually this would be cause for a great celebration and a period of withdrawal as I retreat from society to read this book in a single sitting.

Alas, then that the bad news is that it has universally been hailed as crap.

"Whoever first told John Irving that he was the Dickens of his day did him great damage. His talent isn't a torrent but a stream which needs careful damming if it is to build up the proper pressure. When it meanders as sluggishly as this, his limitations bob up becalmed." [the Guardian]

"Subtlety of every sort is abolished; if there is the remotest chance of the reader not following an insinuation or plot turn, Irving will devote the subsequent paragraph to its explication. That most reliable indicator of crudeness of thought, the exclamation mark, is to be found in abundance....one sobs with despair at the thought of a sequel" [The Sunday Times]

Truth be told, I've not been overly impressed with his last two books. "A Widow For One Year" took me a long while to get hooked, and "The Fourth Hand" (lacrosse playing, frozen dog turd flicker aside) left me cold. Some of his books are majestic though. If you haven't read any, I would heartily recommend that you immerse yourself into something like "The Cider House Rules" (although don't bother with the film), "A Son of the Circus" or (my favourite) "A Prayer for Owen Meany".

So yes, I will be buying this doorstopper of a book at the weekend and giving it a go based entirely on the author's past glories and a desire to make up my own mind about it. Look out for a review within a week if it's any good, and in about 12 months if it's not.

Actually, it's pouring with rain here tonight, and I'm filled with a desire to curl up in bed and read a book, so I think that's just what I'm going to do.

nighty-night kids.


  • At 11:39 pm, Blogger Tom said…

    F*ck the critics. I'm not telling you anything that you do not already know, but in the final analysis you have to make up your own mind.

    I have not read any John Irving whatsoever, so cannot comment on his merits or otherwise, but I automatically buy every new Stephen King book that comes out based on his past glories. Sometimes he has lived up to his reputation, sometimes not. With the last couple of "Dark Tower" novels he has been on a roll.

  • At 12:35 am, Blogger Ka said…

    I actually kinda' liked The Fourth Hand. A bit odd and self-gratifying at times, but a very interesting concept and the guy can turn a phrase.

    Good luck with this one.

  • At 5:28 am, Blogger Aravis said…

    I'm with Tom; I never pay any attention to the critics. I usually disagree with them.

    I hope you enjoy this new book!

    (note the "crude" exclamation)

  • At 10:42 am, Blogger adem said…

    I must say that I'd never heard of him until about a month ago when he did an interview in 'The Independant'.

    It was all about how he never knew his father and how he had a deep rooted longing to find him and gain reaffirmation.

    He knew several things about his father and in his books many of the characters and the relationships with other characters reflected this, often father and son relationship.

    He said that he had put clues and bits of information in them that only his father would know about, and he hoped that his father would oneday read one of his books, and realise that the son he had left as a child was right in front of his nose.

    Sadly he found his father was now dead but knew that he had never read any of his books.

    An interesting interview indeed.

    Another thing that came to light in the interview was that once he had won an Academy Award he got universally panned by the critics.

    It goes to show that jealousy is everywhere and many formerly independant artists (writers, musicians, actors) are viewed as sell-outs if they make it big or are recognised by the mainstream 'pop' culture, in this case because he has a 12 inch golden statuette on his bookcase, he is now viewed in a different light, afterall Dickens never won an Oscar did he?

  • At 12:12 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    John Irving used to be my favourite author, unfortunately his work has become mediocre with time. The Fourth Hand was a disaster.
    I used to believe he was a proper writer but he's just a good technician. No more than that.
    My advice: move on, there's so many brilliant writers out there. Irving is just for teenagers.

  • At 5:57 pm, Blogger red one said…

    Problem is, the only Irving book I can remember trying is the Owen Meany one. And I found it completely unreadable. Sorry about that. Not even two long distance train rides with a particularly grim night in a hotel in betweeen - it was a work related trip - could make me read the thing.

    But tastes in books are very personal, quirky and often inconsistent things. So bollocks to the critics, read it yourself and I hope it turns out to meet your more optimistic predictions...



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