I had never read any John Irving so I thought I’d give him a shot. I was aware of his work from the books that were turned into movies (The Cidar House Rules, The World According to Garp), but we all know that watching a movie adapted from a book and reading the book itself are two completely different experiences. My wife had recently read A Widow for One Year and heartily recommended it, so I thought I’d pick up the paperback and give him 50 pages (my standard for trying out a new author). I was pleasantly surprised.
One of the qualities I strive for in my own writing is to make it relentlessly readable. I don’t always succeed, but accessibility–meaning, the ease at which the reader is pulled into and through the story–is very important to me. I’m also acutely aware of it when reading others.
One of the masters is, of course, Stephen King. If you haven’t read him before, you really should, and don’t be put off by his reputation as a horror writer. True, he’s written lots of horror, but his writing is a lot more diverse than that. Try Bag of Bones, one of his recent novels, which mixes suspense, romance, and even a bit of the John Grisham legal thriller, or his most recent story collection, Everything’s Eventual. There’s masterful writing in both that novel and the short stories.
John Irving’s one of those writers, just like Stephen King. He meanders frequently, and there were times that I was tempted to skim, but I never did because I was afraid I’d miss something good. Definitely a master storyteller.
Other great recent reads: L.A. Dead by Stuart Woods (good, pulpy mystery and A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg (unapologetically sentimental, but I’ve always been a sucker for a good sentimental story.