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Poll: Best John Irving Novel?


That's John Irving, not Owen Meany

I just finished listening to A Prayer for Owen Meany on audiobook, which reminds me: it needs to go on the list of great audiobooks. If you got annoyed by the ALL CAPS of Owen in the book, you don’t have to look at them on audio. Also, with so much emphasis on how strange his voice was, I was worried that an audio reader would get it wrong, but it worked.

A couple of weeks ago I finished Last Night in Twisted River.

Now I’m in a John Irving mood (that link takes you to a list of his books if you need a refresher).

If you’ve read one, all, or any of them, which do you consider the best John Irving novel? Why?

In every single one of his books, there are parts I love and parts I hate. I think he relies too heavily on coincidences and I find some of the political tirades out of place in the stories, even when I agree with them. Also, his infatuations with bears, assorted oddballs, severed limbs, older women sexually initiating younger men, and fellatio gone catastrophic don’t seem to be going away.

There was a mostly negative review of Owen in the New York Times book review. The reviewer stated that:

John Irving favors “characters,” not character…

But I don’t care about that, even if it’s true. I read his books just because I love the way he writes and he’s a brilliant storyteller. He creates big worlds that interest me, and I usually get to spend 500-700 pages wandering through them.

Over to you. Best John Irving book, in your opinion, and your reasons for it.

Are you in the book club? I wish you’d join it.

Here’s that Times review: http://www.nytimes.com/books/97/06/15/lifetimes/10212.html



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Spencer March 8, 2012, 11:16 am

    I have never read one, but will get on it. I know, I am a disgrace.

    • Josh Hanagarne March 8, 2012, 11:38 am

      I think you’d like the 158 lb marriage. It’s short and it’s spicy.

      • Spencer March 8, 2012, 12:16 pm

        Spice is good. Short, I guess it depends who you ask?

  • Pauline March 8, 2012, 11:37 am

    I think Owen Meany is one of his best. Did you see Simon Burch, the movie adaptation? The young actor who played Simon Burch attended the high school where a relative is a teacher. Of course, in my opinion, a movie can never rise to a book, though some may be enjoyable.

  • Melody Tolson March 9, 2012, 1:08 am

    A Prayer for Owen Meany is a huge, weird story containing unlikely characters in preposterous situations….but this doesn’t mean it isn’t one of my favourite books of all time, one I have reread again and again. His ability to make us forgive, nay, even savour, these preposterous situations (almost always including the bears, et al you mentioned) is one of the things that makes me love John Irving. There is such confidence in his storytelling that I just sit back and enjoy the ride. A few years ago, I was lucky enough to hear him read a short story that he said he had never read in public before and would probably never publish. Being there that night made me feel I had won the lottery.

  • Jeroen March 9, 2012, 5:00 am

    I like all of his older novels, but probably Water Method Man most. It’s very funny, and relatively unpretentious.

  • Shane Van Oosterhout March 9, 2012, 7:49 am

    I loved The World According to Garp most because I read it in high school at a time when I was being oppressed by assigned readings of mirthless religiosity–Moby Dick, The Scarlet Letter, etc.

    Garp made me laugh. It showed me that novels can be raucous.

    The Undertoad? Literary genius.

  • Lynn Kilpatrick March 9, 2012, 12:11 pm

    I love Garp. But also Cider House Rules.

  • Daisy March 10, 2012, 4:41 pm

    I still go back to Garp. My least favorite was Hotel New Hampshire. I liked Cider House Rules, and Owen Meany was so odd I couldn’t put it down. But The World According to Garp? Loved it.

  • cinderkeys March 13, 2012, 1:32 am

    Garp left me feeling so wistful back in high school (and weirded out in places) that I never tried another of his. Maybe someday.