Tuesday 12 April 2011

From one virgin birth to another

Fifteen years later I finished A Prayer for Owen Meany; fifteen years ago it was the last remaining novel. I’d read the others, starting with the big hitters; The World According to Garp and The Hotel New Hampshire were followed by four more, with Owen purposely held back, saving the best (by reputation) to last.

John Irving has gone on to write several more since then, he was hardly going to wait for me, and since it’s been so long I’d be hard pressed to say which of his earlier work I thought best. I still have fond memories of The Water Method Man, but in those days my cynicism came from fashion rather than experience. A Prayer for Owen Meany is a great book and I’m ashamed of my earlier lack of understanding, my intolerance toward the narrator John Wheelwright; a character more interesting for the past than the present. I’d thought I was better than that. I’d thought the book would be better if his life in Toronto were excised altogether. I was wrong. Not only does it provide contrast, it is an honest portrayal of a damaged life; and if some parts are more appealing than others - that ought to seem familiar.


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