Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

My Back Pages in John Irving's Latest Novel, an Aging Writer Looks Back at an Unhappy Life

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

My Back Pages in John Irving's Latest Novel, an Aging Writer Looks Back at an Unhappy Life

Article excerpt

Ever since the publication of "The World According to Garp" in 1978, John Irving has provided readers with a steady dose of novels in which one of the main characters is a writer. Probably more than any other modern American author, Mr. Irving has provided numerous tales describing how a writer views the world that is presented to him. In his latest novel, "Avenue of Mysteries," Mr. Irving tells the story of Juan Diego Guerrero, a Mexican-American orphan whose childhood love of reading started the chain of events that led to him becoming a well-known novelist.

Anyone who has read an Irving novel knows that the road from childhood to becoming a writer is strewn with obstacles, detours and unforgettable characters. The good novelist learns to use them all when he finally sits down to write. Juan Diego is no exception. His early years are spent in places that include a refuse dump, an orphanage and a traveling circus. Along with this varied childhood landscape, consider that the people in Juan Diego's early life include a prostitute mother, a surrogate father, a younger sister who can tell the future, a pair of aging Jesuit priests, a transvestite and a draft-dodging American. Rest assured, Mr. Irving will never write a Victorian novel of proper gentlemen and ladies.

What Mr. Irving does here is to sketch a milieu where the abnormal is commonplace, where the fringe becomes the center, where the unexpected is always around the corner. Throughout his career, Mr. Irving's novels have championed those with an extra burden in life: a character with a severed hand, a feminist sect that mutilates their own tongues, a circus dwarf, to name a few. In "Avenue of Mysteries," the young Juan Diego's foot is crushed by a truck. He limps with a maimed foot for the rest of his life. In "The World According to Garp," Mr. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.