90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
John Irving
Photo: john-irving.com

Photo: john-irving.com

Novelist John Irving was listening to an old Bob Dylan song when a few lines grabbed him:

I had a job in the great north woods
Working as a cook for a spell
But I never did like it all that much
And one day the ax just fell.

And John Irving was off, on his latest novel. “Last Night in Twisted River.”

Loggers. Big woods. Bears. Blood. Sex. Naked sky diver. Death by skillet. It’s the kind of wild tale he’s been telling ever since “The World According to Garp.” This time with the love of fathers and sons.

This hour, On Point: Novelist John Irving and “Last Night in Twisted River.”

You can join the conversation. Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Guest:

John Irving joins us from New York.  The best-selling author of “The World According to Garp,” “A Prayer for Owen Meany,” “Until I Find You,” and many more, he won the National Book Award, an O. Henry Award, and an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for “The Cider House Rules.” In 1992 he was inducted into the national Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma. His most recent novel is “Last Night in Twisted River.”

Read an excerpt from “Last Night in Twisted River.”

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Steve Coss

    I’m wondering whether John Irving thinks fiction writers today bear any responsibility for the generally lackluster sales of literary fiction. Are readers getting dumber or are too many fiction writers failing to speak to them in a meaningful way?

  • Laura

    Where does Mr. Irving get ideas and/or inspiration for his main characters? Especially, Owen Meany and Homer Wells. These characters are very human with many strengths and failings and also so very unique. Those qualities seem to speak to many readers because we can identify with the humanity but also strive to be unique in our own right. How does the author craft these unforgettable people?

  • Sharon Fisher Corbett

    Garp still reigns as one of my top most favorite novels.

    I am listening to every word today!

  • Javed

    The Pension Grillparzer was one of stories that made me want to become a writer. Craft question for Mr. Irving – you have said you write backwards – how do you decide the sequence of events, given how critical they are to the laying out of your stories.

    • Romamary

      I loved the Pension Grillparzer.  I read that book my freshman year in college 25 years ago  instead of doing the reading for my classes, and I don’t regret it.  I can still feel the sensations I got when I read that story; Irving wrote it that way.

  • David

    I was first introduced to Mr. Irvings writing as a student at Vermont Academy. We had the pleasure of hearing him read passages from A Prayer For Owen Meeney. Since then I have eagerly read every one of his books and look foward to the newest eagerly.

  • Janet

    I have been a fan since I found Water Method Man remaindered in the mid-70s. When Garp came out, I fell in love and have loved Owen, Johnny, the Coach…so many of Irving’s character that I quote them regularly. “Keep passing the open windows.”

  • Brett

    Great show, Tom. John Irving is one of the most important literary fiction writers of the late twentieth century and into these times. I found the interview to be insightful. I also liked how Mr Irving shut down all of that talk about comparing writers and their styles; that’s something for critics and scholars to debate not for writers talking about their own work. And as he pointed out, it would be arrogant to discuss how one of his contemporaries should and shouldn’t approach writing.

  • Denis

    This interview was terrific, second only to the interview on Owen Meany. What else can be added to the interview? Not much. So much of the whole Irving experience is, to me, simply experiencing it as he fashions it and gives it out to us. Analysis and exigesis of his books seem to me to miss the point of what he focuses on imparting — creating a story (or, better yet, stories within the story) and having the reader just drink it in and see where it takes him / her. I think that’s why I like and admire this guy so much — just as he shies away from taking on the hook of criticism of Wolfe by the caller to put the hook out to him, he does nothing to tell us what we ought to be taking out of his stories and doesn’t that, ultimately, give us the utmost respect as readers by letting us get what we get from him and not tell us what he expects us to get?

    In terms of overall osmossis — getting what you can out of what he gives us — I personally found Owen Meany the best of the best of his stories — the characters and the sub-stories were so incredibly nuanced and the book so beautifully written — and I found Widow for One Year a close second. Twisted River is certainly an interesting story but, to me, not half as complex (in a good way) than Owen Meany and even several others he has written.

    No question, I am glad I got Twisted River for a birthday gift and had the chance to read it, but I can’t wait for the next really developed book Irving comes out with. Kind of like my ongoing waiting for Mailer’s sequel to Harlot’s Ghost which I’m afraid we’ll be waiting a terribly long time for now that Mailer is gone from us.

  • http://www.ukbeadscharms.com/ cheap beads charms

    Charms for Runescape’s
    Summoning Skill
    How
    to define charms for in Runescape? Well charms are
    widely-used to create summoning pouches. With
    out them, the Summoning skill really is
    not the same. Some are
    from thieving within
    the chests in Dorgesh-Kaan, but
    the majority of originated
    from monster drops and
    are
    likely to be just
    one at
    once unless it’s
    a predominant
    monster. The charms aren’t tradable in
    the Grand Exchange, so don’t anticipate
    to just find
    them over
    the ah.
    For
    getting these you
    could have
    to take
    the time to “farm” them. (Farm way
    of slay creatures solely for
    that want connected
    with a certain item)You
    can get varieties
    of charms. There
    are gold, green, blue, crimson, abyssal, and obsidian. Each
    is included
    in different summoning recipes, and
    many types of fall from differing creatures. While these drop
    individually
    from many
    of the monsters you’ll slay, some give more. This
    can poison so you’ll
    have to battle them while drinking a
    considerable amount of antipoison potions. Most will drop charms
    but
    there is some that.

ONPOINT
TODAY
Sep 2, 2014
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., talks with Mark Wilson, event political speaker chairperson, with his wife Elain Chao, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, at the annual Fancy Farm Picnic in Fancy Farm, Ky., Saturday, August 4, 2012. (AP)

Nine weeks counting now to the midterm elections. We’ll look at the key races and the stakes.

Sep 2, 2014
Confederate spymaster Rose O'Neal Greenhow, pictured with her daughter "Little" Rose in Washington, D.C.'s Old Capitol Prison in 1862. (Wikimedia / Creative Commons)

True stories of daring women during the Civil War. Best-selling author Karen Abbott shares their exploits in a new book: “Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy.”

RECENT
SHOWS
Sep 1, 2014
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (95) recovers a fumble by Carolina Panthers quarterback Derek Anderson (3) in the second quarter of the NFL preseason football game on Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014 in Pittsburgh. (AP)

One outspoken fan’s reluctant manifesto against football, and the big push to reform the game.

 
Sep 1, 2014
This Friday, Aug. 22, 2014 photo shows a mural in in the Pullman neighborhood of Chicago dedicated to the history of the Pullman railcar company and the significance for its place in revolutionizing the railroad industry and its contributions to the African-American labor movement. (AP)

On Labor Day, we’ll check in on the American labor force, with labor activist Van Jones, and more.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
The Five Midterm 2014 Races To Watch
Tuesday, Sep 2, 2014

The five most interesting races of the 2014 midterm election cycle, per our panel of expert national political correspondents.

More »
Comment
 
Our Week In The Web: August 29, 2014
Friday, Aug 29, 2014

On hypothetical questions, Beyoncé and the unending flow of social media.

More »
Comment
 
Drew Bledsoe Is Scoring Touchdowns (In The Vineyards)
Thursday, Aug 28, 2014

Football great — and vineyard owner — Drew Bledsoe talks wine, onions and the weird way they intersect sometimes in Walla Walla, Washington.

More »
Comment