Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Genius of Fictional Autobiography

The son loses his father to war without ever knowing him. His mother remarries and the newlyweds rename the boy (both middle and last name), not yet five. He has a learning disorder, but grows up quiet, a bit odd, a wrestler and, eventually, a writer in search of father characters.

Such is the biography of writer John Irving. Such are many of the works of Irving. And, with some variations on his usual themes, such is the new novel, "Last Night in Twisted River," that is a picaresque quest of father and son, begun when the child skillets the cranium of a woman, fearing she is a bear instead of a mistress (and his sitter) looming above his pleasured father in flagrante delicto.

In writing his fictional fathers and sons, Irving is in search of himself. Still, the magic is that his words, somehow also turn out to be the same search — yet unique to each — of many other dads and their children.

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