Sunday, July 15, 2012

Dear John,

I have read every novel John Irving has published and have enormous respect for many of them. I am totally over the wrestling however.

That has not stopped me from buying his latest novel, 'In One Person', in the hope that there might be all of those wonderfully rich characters with some new imagining and re-imagining of the world.

'In one person' is another good book.  It introduces us to characters who are, in the Irving tradition, flawed yet lovable. Deeply human, they invite you into their intimate circles, to revel in their frailty.

Yet when part way through I find myself shuffled mindlessly into yet another high school wrestling room I feel betrayed and have to put the Kindle away and read something else for a while.

I believe Irving to be a fantastic writer.  He has written some of my all time favourites works. But the over use of the same subject for so many, if not all, of his characters to literally and symbolically 'wrestle' with leaves me feeling a bit cheated. Not everyone in the known world wrestles.  Not everyone in New Hampshire wrestles. There is a sense that there is a lack of imagination here which is in such stark contrast to the dialogue and relationships that unfold throughout his work.   

I'm at the point that although in this novel the wrestling is actually used as part of the plot I find it detracts from everything else. I can accept that if this had been my first Irving I might feel differently, I might find it fits the mood and the story and the character perfectly.  But as readers we don't take in anything in isolation; as people we know that everything is connected. The constant repetition makes me feel as though I have been robbed of the full weight of the story.

The sore spot the wrestling has rubbed raw on me makes it hard to concentrate on the gentle way in which the experience of the explosion of AIDS onto the 1980s GLBT scene is unfolded. The exploration of Bill's cross dressing grandfather is handled beautifully.

This was not his greatest work, not by a long shot, but there are solid characters and lovely vignettes all the same.

I can't promise I'll be reading the next novel.  I can't promise that I won't.

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