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Found 6 results

  1. Setting Free the Bears by John Irving is a valiant attempt for a first novel, but it falls short in a few places. And it tries to make a statement, though whether that statement is "no good deed goes unpunished " or "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" or "fanatics are hard on the rest of the world" or even something else entirely, I cannot be sure. Basic storyline; Siggy and Hannes are flunking out of college, so they buy a motorcycle and toodle about Austria, getting into mischief and living off the fat(and beer) of the land. Along the way Siggy decides to liberate the animals from the zoo in Vienna, but is waylaid before he can carry them out. Eventually Hannes decides to do the job himself, as a tribute to his friend. Hannes narrates the first and third sections, and is an annoyingly cutesie narrator. I'm sure it was meant to be funny, but I seldom found it so. He is a bit of a horndog too, understandable enough in a young man, but his wooing of the obviously underage and innocent Gallen was galling. I enjoyed the twin narratives of Siggy's autobiography and zoo recon in the notebook which constitutes the middle third of the book much better. The humor was subtler and less juvenile, and the stories more compelling. But Siggy is a fanatic, and while likable and sympathetic, I was not surprised by his downfall. I had a difficult time getting into this book or sticking with it. But I'm glad I persevered. It's not a great book but ultimately it's a worthwhile read. It gets points for effort and originality, but loses most of them for trying too hard and never feeling real. 3 stars
  2. The Fourth Hand by John Irving Patrick Wallingford, an exceptionally handsome but callow man,is a television journalist whose hand is bitten off, and eaten, by a lion, on camera while he is doing a report from a circus in India. Eventually he recieves a hand transplant and develops a relationship with the widow of the donor. Interspersed throughout are encounters with women who adore and/or despise him , and odd encounters with people who feel like they know him because they watched his dismemberment on TV. And a certain level of somewhat hypocritical discourse on the nature of television news. I say hypocritical because the novel itself is lurid and melodramatic in the extreme, and because Wallingford himself, the "Lion Guy" or "Disaster Man" actually seems too shallow to really care about such things. I have been a big fan of John Irving since reading Garp when I was in high school. He had never disappointed me. Until The Fourth Hand. And it's not really a bad novel. Irving can still write a wonderful, poetic, witty and clever sentence. And he still has a tremendous imagination. But this book just didn't jell. It was disjointed and flitted from aspect to aspect, more like it was notes that never really got organized cohesively. The characterizations seemed contradictory rather than complex. The last third of the book flowed much better, and a critical plot device which made no sense at all was finally explained, but by then I really just wanted to be done with it. If this was a first novel I'd give it 3stars and call it promising. But it is Irving's 10th novel and seemed like it was just phoned in. It didn't feel like he really put in the effort he should have. Because I know John Irving can do so much better than this I give it 2.5stars.
  3. Just stumbled across this thread while looking for something else. I have never read the book but I'm sure someone is happy to be able to read this again. Volvican 16th July 2006 03:31 PM The Hotel New Hampshire I am just not having much luck with my summer reading. Coming off the fairly unenjoyable 'The Known World' I thought perhaps an Irving book might hit the spot. I've only read one other Irving book - 'Garp' and I did enjoy that. But this book might as well have been called 'Garp 2'. There were SO many elements recycled into this book. Eccentric family, move to Vienna, someone's a writer, prep schools, footballers, NY city and New England, same sort of narrator, obsession with exercise, non-typcial attitdues and experiences with sex, etc.... As the repetitions continued I just started to get more and more annoyed. This didn't put me in much of a mind to judge the book on it's writing but I found that just as annoying. I wanted to know what happened to the characters but I just wanted him to get it over with already. I grew to instensely dislike what I now consider to be the Irving 'voice' - this dispassionate narrator character that just to accept from the get-go a 'oh well - that's life' sort of attitude. Over and over again - you're hit with that message - 'nothing really matters' and you frankly start to believe it about this book. Why should you care? Why should you continue reading? The only reason you do is because of the shear absurdity of what is actually going on. I also found it to be too self-conscious. At one point a character talks about how American literature is unique in that it's "technically sophisticated while remained ideologically naive." And I immediately got the sense that Irving was only telling us that because he himself thinks that either he typifies this quality brilliantly or that he's the rare American author that does not exhibit this tendency to remain ideologically naive. I get the sense that it's probably the later- hence the disaffected narrator. The symbolism is the book is slapped on with a trowel as well. (a dog named Sorrow??? Sorrow floats?? Pleeeeease) It'll be a while before I pick up another Irving book. I think his latest one was amazingly long as well so another rason to stay well clear. ---------------------------------------------------------- Hazel 16th July 2006 03:40 PM I have tried very hard to fully enjoy an Irving book, and I'd have to say that Hotel New Hampshire came close, though not enough for it to remain on my bookshelf. I quite liked the dysfunctional, mad-cap family, though the whole Susie(?) the Bear nonsense drove me to distraction. Garp, I found a little too dull and the characters too self-involved to be interesting to a reader. I gave up on Irving a long time ago. ---------------------------------------------------------- megustaleer 16th July 2006 10:29 PM This is the only book I have read by John Irving, and it came to me via a book group, not of my own choosing. It is very weird, and enjoyable in a strange way...certainly memorable. I even stayed up late one night to watch the film on TV, just to see what they made of it. I can't say that I feel any inclination to read more books by Irving, that one was enough. ---------------------------------------------------------- Volvican 17th July 2006 10:11 AM I didn't know they made a movie out of it. That must have been interesting.... shall have to look that up on IMDB. ---------------------------------------------------------- Mungus 17th July 2006 11:07 AM I feel the need to stand up for John Irving!! I used to be a big fan and have read most of his novels a good few years back. My memory is hazy, but Hotel New Hampshire isn't his best. I get the impression that A Prayer For Owen Meany is generally the most popular. I thought there was a thread on it but I can't find it. I said that I used to be a fan because I feel that his recent works have been very samey and formulaic and I haven't bothered with the last few. ---------------------------------------------------------- Grammath 17th July 2006 12:41 PM "The Hotel New Hampshire" was the first Irving novel I read, must be about half a lifetime ago now, so I didn't have the experience of it being "Garp 2". I enjoyed it enough that I have been inspired to read several more of his generally very lengthy works although like you, Mungus, I haven't read much of his very recent work. The only one I didn't really get on with was his first "Setting Free the Bears". You are right, Volvican, that Irving certainly has repeating motifs in his career (you forgot to list wrestling) but I don't have a problem with a writer doing that - to me, its just a stylistic tic - plus if you read crime series you can come to regard it as normal. I do agree, though, that he holds himself in very high regard. I think he must have read a review calling him a modern American Dickens and it went to his head. There is something about a lot of his books that makes them seem as if he is trying to tick all the boxes on the checklist of what goes into a Great American novel. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, but I understand it is not to everybody's taste. ---------------------------------------------------------- MarkC 18th July 2006 10:29 PM I read this and enjoyed it enough that Garp found its way on to my TBR pile, where it remains along with a lot of other things. I am not familiar enough with American fiction or "the Great American Novel" to know if Irving is making a conscious attempt at acheiving that in his writing, to me it was simply another contemporary novel. I liked the absurdity of the events and supporting characters in the story, the strangeness of the different family members and the way he told the story in a way that made it involving and funny despite the tradegies that unfold. Somehow he managed to draw me into this strange dysfunctional family and want to know what becomes of them all. It kept me up late a few nights which is generally a good sign. The film was my introduction to the story, I only read the novel as a consequence of seeing part of the movie and that was only because of Nastassja Kinski*. The film is quite faithful to the book, although some things are clearer in the book. *I admit it, I'm shallow enough to start to watch a film because she's in it, even though it means I've seen at least the beginning of some real turkeys as a result . Mungus 19th July 2006 08:31 PM
  4. I've just finished reading this and loved it. I know a few people here have read it, as it got mentionned on the Books that makes you cry thread. So - what did you think of it? To my surprise, it didn't make me cry at all. Maybe that was because I was expecting a big, tragic ending, so I was ready for it. I saw what was coming way before it actually did. Loved it all the same, though. Owen was a fantastic character, as was the whole Wheelwright family.
  5. hey all this is my first post so hope I'm doing it right. Just wondered, am a big John Irving fan but was disappointed by his last novel 'The Fourth Hand', has anyone read his new novel 'Until I find you' yet? What did you think? Loved his earlier work, but I don't want to be disappointed again and ruin my opinion of him!
  6. A Widow for One Year - John Irving - 1998 This is definitely a book I would not have read if it wasn't for my book club. I still don't know whether I liked it or not. It certainly is a book that makes you think about a lot of things.
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