John Irving returns to the themes that established him as one of our most admired and beloved authors in this absorbing novel of fate and memory.
As we grow older — most of all, in what we remember and what we dream — we live in the past. Sometimes, we live more vividly in the past than in the present.
As an older man, Juan Diego will take a trip to the Philippines, but what travels with him are his dreams and memories; he is most alive in his childhood and early adolescence in Mexico. “An aura of fate had marked him,” John Irving writes, of Juan Diego. “The chain of events, the links in our lives — what leads us where we’re going, the courses we follow to our ends, what we don’t see coming, and what we do — all this can be mysterious, or simply unseen, or even obvious.”
When he is four years old, Jack travels with his mother Alice, a tattoo artist, to several North Sea ports in search of his father, William Burns. From Copenhagen to Amsterdam, William, a brilliant church organist and profligate womanizer, is always a step ahead — has always just departed in a wave of scandal, with a new tattoo somewhere on his body from a local master or “scratcher.”
Alice and Jack abandon their quest, and Jack is educated at schools in Canada and New England — including, tellingly, a girls’ school in Toronto. His real education consists of his relationships with older women — from Emma Oastler, who initiates him into erotic life, to the girls of St. Hilda’s, with whom he first appears on stage, to the abusive Mrs. Machado, whom he first meets when sent to learn wrestling at a local gym.
Too much happens in this expansive, eventful novel to possibly summarize it all. Emma and Jack move to Los Angeles, where Emma becomes a successful novelist and Jack a promising actor. A host of eccentric minor characters memorably come and go, including Jack’s hilariously confused teacher the Wurtz; Michelle Maher, the girlfriend he will never forget; and a precocious child Jack finds in the back of an Audi in a restaurant parking lot. We learn about tattoo addiction and movie cross-dressing, “sleeping in the needles” and the cure for cauliflower ears. And John Irving renders his protagonist’s unusual rise through Hollywood with the same vivid detail and range of emotions he gives to the organ music Jack hears as a child in European churches. This is an absorbing and moving book about obsession and loss, truth and storytelling, the signs we carry on us and inside us, the traces we can’t get rid of.
Jack has always lived in the shadow of his absent father. But as he grows older — and when his mother dies — he starts to doubt the portrait of his father’s character she painted for him when he was a child. This is the cue for a second journey around Europe in search of his father, from Edinburgh to Switzerland, towards a conclusion of great emotional force.
A melancholy tale of deception, is also a swaggering comic novel, a giant tapestry of life’s hopes. It is a masterpiece to compare with John Irving’s great novels, and restates the author’s claim to be considered the most glorious, comic, moving novelist at work today.
John living was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, in 1942, and he once admitted that he was a “grim” child. Although he excelled in English at school and knew by the time he graduated that he wanted to write novels, it was not until he met a young Southern novelist named John Yount, at the University of New Hampshire, that he received encouragement. “It was so simple,” he remembers. “Yount was the first person to point out that anything I did except writing was going to be vaguely unsatisfying.”
In 1963, Irving enrolled at the Institute of European Studies in Vienna, and he later worked as a university lecturer. His first novel, about a plot to release all the animals from the Vienna Zoo, was followed by a comic tale of a man with a urinary complaint, and which exposes the complications of spouse-swapping. Irving achieved international recognition with which he hoped would “cause a few smiles among the tough-minded and break a few softer hearts.”
Copyright © Garp Enterprises Ltd 1981
“A Birthday Candle” Copyright © 1957 by Donald Justice. This poem first appeared in
“On the death of Friends and Childhood” Copyright © 1959 by Donald Justice.
“Love Stratagems” Copyright © 1958 by Donald Justice. This poem first appeared in
“To a Ten-Months’ Child” Copyright 1960 by Donald Justice.
“Tales from a Family Album” Copyright © 1957 by Donald Justice. These poems reprinted from by permission of Wesleyan University Press.
“The Evening of the Mind” Copyright © 1965 by Donald Justice. This poem first appeared in
“The Tourist from Syracuse” Copyright © 1965 by Donald Justice.
“Men of Forty” Copyright © 1966 by Donald Justice. This poem first appeared in These poems reprinted from by permission of Wesleyan University Press.
“I Forgot To Forget” Copyright © by permission of Stanley Kesler; Highlow Music Inc. 639 Madison Avenue, Memphis, Tn. 38130.
“I Love You Because” by Leon Payne Copyright © 1949 by Fred Rose Music, Inc. Used by permission of the Publisher. All rights reserved.
The novelist is indebted to the following works and wishes to express his gratitude to the authors: , by Carl E. Schorske; , by Frederic Morton; , by J. Sydney Jones; , by David Pryce-Jones and the Editors of Time-Life Books; , by Gaetano Donizetti, the Dover Opera Guide and Libretto Series, (introduced and translated by Ellen H. Bleiler); and by Sigmund Freud.
With special thanks to Donald Justice. And with special thanks and special affection—to Lesley Claire and the Sonoma County Rape Crisis Center of Santa Rosa, California.
On July 18, 1980 the Stanhope Hotel on Eighty-first and Fifth Avenue changed management and ownership and became the American Stanhope—a fine hotel currently not beset by the problems of the Stanhope described in this fiction.
Set among the apple orchards of rural Maine, it is a perverse world in which Homer Wells' odyssey begins. As the oldest unadopted offspring at St Cloud's orphanage, he learns about the skills which, one way or another, help young and not-so-young women, from Wilbur Larch, the orphanage's founder, a man of rare compassion with an addiction to ether.
Dr Larch loves all his orphans, especially Homer Wells. It is Homer's story we follow, from his early apprenticeship in the orphanage, to his adult life running a cider-making factory and his strange relationship with the wife of his closest friend.
From the author of A Widow for One Year, A Prayer for Owen Meany and other acclaimed novels, comes a story of a father and a son – fugitives in 20th-century North America.
In 1954, in the cookhouse of a logging and sawmill settlement in northern New Hampshire, a twelve-year-old boy mistakes the local constable's girlfriend for a bear. Both the twelve-year-old and his father become fugitives, pursued by the constable. Their lone protector is a fiercely libertarian logger, once a river driver, who befriends them.
In a story spanning five decades, Last Night in Twisted River – John Irving's twelfth novel – depicts the recent half-century in the United States as a world 'where lethal hatreds were generally permitted to run their course.' From the novel's taut opening sentence – 'The young Canadian, who could not have been more than fifteen, had hesitated too long.' – to its elegiac final chapter, what distinguishes Last Night in Twisted River is the author's unmistakable voice, the inimitable voice of an accomplished storyteller.