Last Night in Twisted River, by John Irving

by Derwood Hunsdale-Talbot on March 26, 2010

Oh, Mr. Irving. How clever you must feel. The delightful, blissful, pee-your-pants-a-little-bit joy you must feel each an every morning when you wake up and realize that, while your book is a literary disaster and the public is outraged that such a travesty would flow from the tip of your pen (MacBook Pro?), you can sit pretty because, apparently, that’s the whole point.

What a nice little safety net you’ve built for yourself.

Because when things are spelled out the way they are in Last Night in Twisted River time and again, it leaves a reader to second guess what we are criticizing.

In any work of fiction, weren’t those things that had really happened to the writer – or, perhaps, to someone the writer had intimately known – more authentic, more verifiably true, than anything that anyone could imagine? (This was a common belief, even though a fiction writer’s job was imagining, truly, a whole story – as Danny had subversively said, whenever he was given the opportunity to defend the fiction in fiction writing – because real-life stories were never whole, never complete in the ways that novels could be.)

You know it’s true. You got so bored and sick of the story line and characters in Twisted River (you did, admit it, it was terrible! How many times can you repeat “the chef with the limp” with all of its variations in 560 pages? A lot. That’s how much.) that you started looking at subtext and reading between the lines at the commentary from Irving as opposed to the narrator. And I get the sneaking suspicion that that wily Irving knew his book was a dud and started playing up the whole “what am I really talking about in this novel?” which is what makes that subtext so apparent, which is why the reader starts focusing on it instead of the story, and poof, now we’re in the mess we’re in.

I think Irving would have been better off just going back and coming up with some new ideas. That’s all.

Parallels between Danny & Co. (the characters) and John (the author) and all John’s (the author) other novels

Choice of career.
Criticism of their careers.
Subjects of their novels.
Their feelings toward America’s involvement in Vietnam.
Their opinions of George W. Bush.
How much they love wrestling.
Canada, New Hampshire, Vermont, New England.

Just when you think you’ve gotten it all figured out, that this book is actually a space for Irving to bitch and complain about his own career and how he doesn’t care what critics/the public think, and that this is just his life as an author, he likes to throw in passages like the one above, attempting (rather weakly, I think) to debunk it all. Nice try, Irving.

Let’s not even get started on how, magnificently, Danny (the character) struggles with the beginning of his newest novel at the end of this novel whose subject and opening line are identical to the subject and opening line of THIS book. What? What, John? What was that you were trying? Just because you are all washed up in this novel, don’t try to get all po-mo in a last ditch effort to revive the travesty that is Twisted River.

I’m done.

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3 Books I Started and Never Finished » Written Word
August 5, 2010 at 12:12 pm

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don stover June 22, 2010 at 3:29 pm

Right on Derwood, another over rated mush peddler gets a comeupance!!!

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