Saturday, March 4, 2006

Dedication: Irving

The votes have been counted. The contest is over. The scores are in.

John. Irving. Is. My. Favourite. Author.

Hands down. No questions asked. Without a doubt. Stick a fork in me. Three sheets to the wind. Don't count your chickens. Can't judge a book...?

So from now on, my response to the question will be unswerving.

Who is your favourite author?
John Irving. *robot like response, eyes straight forward, no lag time*

(that's what unswerving looks like to me)

His unnending, yet rivetting attention to detail brings you directly onto the page, living it. Though yes, you may often find yourself thinking 'where is this going? i can't imagine him being able to tell this story for five hundred more pages'. And yet through it, you don't even think of giving up on the book. Irving is forgiven in a way that i do not always forgive authors. In fact, he is celebrated throughout.

Then suddenly, did you hear that?

'like a dress trying to slide off the coat hanger' -irving.

No. It was more like a click. The kind you hear when you get to the top of the rollercoaster, just before you start your descent.

You can feel is now. Gaining momentum. And you can foresee all these things that he's had in store all along. But no, not all. Suddenly minor details from the past pages seem strikingly poignant and you realize now that he's been giving it away all along, and once again, you wonder how could i have not seen this coming? how could i have been so blind? but you laugh because it was all so clever, and you laugh because you can't help it and you don't know why. Maybe not so much laughing, as a little ball of emotion bubbling up to your lips and pushing its way out. The result of such a thing happening, of course, happens to be the production of a noise, often barely audible and rarely similar to any bubble escape in the past. No, not laughs, at all. Spontaneous emotion bubble escapes. They happen mostly when you are alone.

The second half of the book happens so fast that you cannot believe it. If reading were breathing, you would be gasping for air repeatedly. The once celebrated first half of the book has now come to be revered as genious and intricate and masterful.

(once i read A Prayer For Owen Meanie and i didn't make it past the first hundred pages. i didn't get it back then. i didn't know.)

Most of what draws me in most likely remains unconscious. Probably in the beginning, all of what i love about Irving was unknown to me. Obviously, the sheer number of Irving novels that i have read has improved my recognition of those similarities that keep me coming back and being able to anticipate certain things also helps. And of course, the unconscious statistical processes going on in all our minds takes in other books i read and factors in all the things i don't like to further reinforce those things about Irving that i do like. It's an awesome process that's happening inside our heads at all times. And now I am able to say that my favourite author is John Irving and know that i have often responded to the favourite author question with a number of limited responses, including Irving and combinations including Irving but not always, and that while i may have been right at times, i never truly knew what the answer to that question was, and that now i know i know. It's amazing just how out of touch we are with our own selves - our likes our dislikes and the reasons why we do anything - while at the same time being so in touch with our own selves to know that when we know we know, we know.

Isn't that incredible?

Disclaimer: this response may not always be accurate, as i read more authors and discover more of what i like about writers. But it is true now, and you can be sure that i will have a warm place for Irving in my heart for the rest of my life.

Another thing i love about reading multiple books by the same author, is that you can learn so much about their lives. In psychological institutions, patients or subjects or what-have-you, are often asked to make up stories and the psychologist is able to learn many things about them that they may never have told of their own accord, in fact, they don't even know they are telling now. Often these stories are guided and prompted because the psychologist is looking for personal information relating to certain areas of the psyche, and more often because this allows for more definable and verifiable experimental measures. Dreams are considered along with story-telling as a highly informative view of a person's inner experience, even if it is not obvious to the dreamer. It is unfortunate that dreams are not easiliy remembered and that that scope of your unconstrained imagination makes analysis more difficult. You can imagine, then, that unrestricted stories can express much of the unconscious and is more accesible to the uneducated person-analyst than dreams are. Though i suppose that if you were privy to the continued dream life of one person, your mind would very naturally begin to assimilate the information, highlighting themes and recurrences, to give you a very good picture of that individual, albeit perhaps unconsciously.

Obviously John Irving went to Exeter - i'd know this even if i hadn't read his quasi-autobiography - and spent some time in Germany. He has insecurities of himself as a writer, but he is a very natural story teller (he has a gift for story-within-story). Physically smallish. And i think he was called Johnnie, and hoped that one day people would call him John.... Though this is just the tip of the iceberg.

See? Reading is fun. Everyone should read. Everything you can get your hands on. Throw away your television.

The only chance we have at saving the world is through art.

** Very honourable mention goes to Kurt Vonnegut. Very very honourable. It should be noted that if i were to choose among the men, if i were to be asked 'which one would you like to meet?' i would go with Vonnegut. Though i doubt i could explain my answer to that question, cause even i am not entirely sure why.**


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