Tuesday, February 02, 2016

MANKATO WRESTLES WITH WINTER STORM JOHN IRVING


If you follow the show, you know that we began naming our Winter Storms almost a decade ago. We began with BBC Radio Show Hosts, moved on to favorite British comedians and now we are naming storms after favorite authors. Which brings me to John Irving. I can truly say that he was the first author I read that I fell head over heels in love with and simply had to read everything he'd ever written. In 1984 I was a freshman in High School and it was a very big year for John Irving. Two of his books were released as movies that year, World According To Garp and The Hotel New Hampshire. I saw both of them and was attracted by the crazy characters  - and they made me laugh. After noticing these two films were based on John Irving's books of the same names, I quickly read them both.


After that I bought his first three books and quickly read those. I couldn't tell you exactly what attracted me to them in the beginning. In fact, I think at my young age some of the more mature content probably went right over my head. But there was one thing that I did identify with entirely, his main narrative characters. They always seemed to me to be completely unsure of who they were, where they were going, or what they wanted to do. At the time I was reading these books, I'd lost my Dad unexpectedly in a car accident and I, too felt much the same way as these characters. Life was simply happening around me, and I felt helpless to control any part of it. And then The Cider House Rules came out. A complicated story about an orphanage and it's oldest orphan Homer Wells. Through the tutelage of Dr. Larch and the loving nurses who become his surrogate family Homer learns that simply "trying to be of use" leads towards a life worth living. I could identify with that notion as well, and it hit me at the perfect time in my life, starting an ill fated pipe dream of wanting to be a small town doctor. It was a romantic notion on my part, and even though I started college Pre-Med, chemistry and Richard Leakey changed my way of thinking right quick.


And then John Irving wrote the book that I have read so many times that my copy is ear marked, highlighted, notes jotted in, and entire sections falling out of the binder. That book is A Prayer For Owen Meany. If you have ever questioned faith and fate, or wondered if we make our way in life or if it has already been chosen for us, this book will become one of your favorites too. And John Irving is a master story teller.To me this book has one of the best first sentences of all time;  "I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice – not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany."

No matter how many times I read this book, I still laugh through much of it, and even though I know how it ends, I always find myself crying like a baby through the last few chapters. In fact it is almost worse knowing the heartache to come. If you read only one book by John Irving, then please read this one. You will be glad you did.


John Irving has written many books after A Prayer For Owen Meany, and I have read them all. Among my favorites are Last Night In Twisted River, Until I Find You, In One Person, and A Widow For One Year. At the end of last year I was able to see John Irving as part of MPR's Talking Volumes. He was as funny, thoughtful and well spoken as I imagined him to be, and such a delight to hear speak. Kerri Miller asked him how his story telling had changed over so many years of writing and he replied he didn't think it had, but she pressed him, not believing he hadn't changed. Irving was silent for awhile, and then said "You don't get to pick your nightmares. You don't decide what wakes you up in the middle of the night in fear. That is what I write about, and that hasn't changed over the years". I will never forget that answer. You can read about John Irving everywhere on-line, but the best place to start is his web site. You can find that here.


Tim just said that John Irving would be proud to have a storm as strong as this named after him and I couldn't agree more. It's going to be long storm, and it is of epic proportion, but it is beautiful to watch those big flakes swirling as the inches add up. So, without further adieu, I give you WINTER STORM JOHN IRVING!

oh - if you have some free time on your hands (and most of us do now) you can see his recent interview that I mentioned below.



Drive safe everyone. Winter Storm John Irving is not messing around.

Shelley

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