Plot is key in a John Irving novel. According to him, it’s key to any good novel. Any good writer has to feel frightened to make the reader believe the incident they are reading about is frightening. John Irving has made me suspend disbelief in every one of his novels, but somehow I buy into the storyline, because it’s riveting and the characters are so full of life.
John spoke at the 92nd Street Y last night and let us in on his story. He was the child of a theater person. His first love was acting. His mother worked at a local theater. He was 6 at the time and would hang out and watch rehearsals. His mother would tell him the plot of the play before it was produced, which he said may be why he always writes the last line or paragraph of the book first. And that line(s) has never changed. He read us the last part of his uncompleted book last night. The book has the working title In One Person, which he derived from a line in Shakespeare’s Richard ll. This is the tale of a bisexual boy who falls in love with a transgender, but he is unaware that she is a transgender. Although he didn’t reveal more than that, I’m sure there will be a bear or a child who never physically grows up somewhere in the mix.
The youngest of his children will be leaving the house next year to go to college. This is the first time in many years that he will not have a child living at home with him. In a moment of vulnerability, he confessed that being afraid for someone else informed his writing and changed his life.
He studied German in his early 20’s and had a jazz drummer as a roommate. The apartment was above a folk music hall, where the music played into the night. He read this story, which was a memoir of connecting. He asked that it not be recorded. Even though his friend, the writer Edmund White suggested he write his memoirs, he is not interested. He has written about portions of his life and in one instance he regretted it. He felt that story should have been saved and embellished, twisted or played with so that it would end up in one of his novels. John Irving tells a great story.