Author crush: I is for John Irving (Blogging from A-Z)

Today is day 9 of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.  The challenge began with A on April 1 and continues the alphabet throughout theI
month, except on Sundays. My theme for the month will be this blog’s tagline: life, books, and all things bookish, so you can expect a little bit of this ‘n that. I’m still reading, though, and I’ll add reviews whenever possible. Thirty days of blogging is a huge commitment for me, but I’m looking forward to meeting and greeting new blog friends.

Today’s word: Irving 


What I read

John Irving
University of Houston

I started reading John Irving with The Hotel New Hampshire. It was crazy different from what I was accustomed to reading, but I was hooked. I devoured Cider House Rules and Prayer for Owen Meany as soon as they were published. By this time I was working at the bookstore and my author crush was widely known–my manager even asked the publishing rep for an extra cover so I could have this dreamy photo of him.

Why John Irving? His characters behaved outrageously compared to my conservative Midwestern friends and family–but for some reason I accepted them as if not a jot or tittle was out of order. They felt like my people, somehow. (And no, I’m not a furry; I’m of normal stature, my true love isn’t a wounded veteran, and I’ve never had a hand transplant.) For all the outlandish plots and characters, his novels have some elemental Truth-with-a-capital-T.

I kept reading Irving into The Son of the Circus and The Fourth Hand. I read In One Person. But somehow, that glow was gone and the books just never quite lived up to those first few. At least for me. There were glimmers of Cider House, mind you–but the characters were more shocking than Real-with-a-capital-R and the plots more audacious than they were a hero’s journey.

I also happened to catch a TV interview with Irving on a morning talk show shortly before A Son of the Circus was published, and my Crush-with-a-capital-C came face-t0-face with reality. He looked less like the book jacket photo than I thought could be possible, fifteen years not withstanding. (I have no idea what the photographer did to that photo, but it was less a likeness than a rough approximation.) And he spoke. Gah! My man crush heart sank: his voice was a bit nasally, a tad lispy, and a tenor. *Sigh*

But, still, there’s nothing like an author crush, is there?

What I lived
My firstborn probably strolled up to the library when he was only a few weeks old. He was a May baby and the branch was only three blocks away. I started the habit of taking the kids once to check out books and once for story time each week. I never waited until the two-year-old age limit for story hour on the library flyers–the kids knew books and stories from the get-go. No worries there.

It was the smallest little library branch you might ever see. Just three rooms open to the public and small ones at that: general fiction, reference & children’s together in one room, new arrivals and non-fiction in another with the card catalog (remember card catalogs?!) No fancy sofas and chairs with charging docks. No coffee bar. No tablets for check-out. Just brown linoleum floors and blond wood tables and chairs. Standard institutional stuff in the 70s.

But is was there my kids first met Curious George and Madeline. They knew the Five Chinese Brothers before they were shut away for not being politically correct. They read the adventures of the Ducklings and Mike Mulligan, and they picked blueberries with Sal. When they got older they hung out with Ramona and Beezus Quimby and some orphan children who lived in a railroad car. We were totally old-school, and it didn’t hurt them a bit to read books that gave not a wink or a nod to Disney or Pixar–not that there even was a Pixar back then.

If Mom wanted to browse, I walked up when the branch had evening hours. Without three little ones I could read jacket flaps to my heart’s content and hopefully find two or three to last until the next week. I read constantly, even when the kids were infants and toddlers. I read when I nursed them, I read when I cooked dinner, I read while I watched them play from the front porch steps. I often worried that they’d resent books and hate reading because my attention was so often diverted.

But, nope. This story has a happy ending: they all three became readers themselves.

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