Bravely honest

I had some down time before teaching, so I turned on the tube and came upon a talk that the author John Irving gave when he was in Chicago. He was promoting his new book, and I thought it was odd when the promotional flyer said that he would not be signing any books. "What nerve," I thought, because he's so successful and he can't even give his fans any face time? I've often thought that if I ever "made it" (which I won't since I don't like the isolation, doubt, and failure of fiction writing) I would be a whole lot more grateful than the superstar novelists.

I haven't read any of his books because they seem sort of vulgar--not that they're totally that way, but there seem to be some unsavory parts in his stories and borderline darkness that I'd rather not consume. But that doesn't mean I don't respect what he's accomplished: he's been successful, has a loyal audience, and lives in New England and Toronto--I love that city!

Well, little did I know until I saw his speech on Chicago public TV that he's been through a lot of bad stuff, and he was bearing his soul. He told everyone that he was sexually abused when he was 11 by an older woman, never knew his father (his parents got divorced, the family didn't want to discuss it, and his mom remarried and never let John Irving have a relationship with his father), and had yearned to see his father. He found out that he had a half-brother when he called Irving and told him that his father had died five years before that phone call. He was so sad! And I got all this info from that talk, which was more than an hour. He really shared everything, and I think that's brave!

The reason why he was telling everybody about his lifelong struggles, including relationships with older women (obvious psychological reason there) was because his latest book is based on what he experienced and the struggles he's had. You can read all about his life and book (which I still don't care about) in this NY Times article.

By the way, I saw him speak when he was in town back in the late 90's, and even though I had no interest in his books, I liked hearing him speak. He read excerpts from his upcoming novel (I forgot the title) and I felt like everyone was laughing except for me--too vulgar. I was quite close to the stage, so he looked at me--at least I'm pretty sure he did. And why wouldn't he? Everyone was laughing, and I was sitting there unamused, and I was close enough for him to see my expressionless face. But eventually I laughed because he's a good writer and the other parts he read were benign.

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