Thursday, December 08, 2005

Until I find You

I found a John Irving I couldn’t finish. Infact I could hardly bear to read it. John Irving is one of those authors I had a somewhat excessive fondness for, as a college kid. Looking back, I find it all somewhat embarassing. You know that feeling, when you find an old that-adolescent-age snap of yours, all metal brace and too long arms and legs. Well, that’s the precise feeling I get when I think of how over the moon I used to be over Irving.

Still, one has to admit, The world according to Garp is a bloody good book. Even if you discount everything else, this one part in the book really kills me. When Garp is taking his sons to the sea, he tells them “Watch out for the undertow”. The younger boy, a four year old, mistakes this for the under toad, and imagines a sinister sea monster lurking beneath the waters, waiting for him, raring to pull him under. Irving is smart. He just lets you sit there reading and terrorised, waiting for the under toad that is surely going to bring everything down. And sure enough, it does, as the novel moves on into its tragic finale.

I liked Setting free the bears and The 158 pound marriage as well. Inspite of all of Irving’s outrageous characters and incredible happenings, they had something to say. The 158 pound marriage is a an extremely interesting account of commitment and fidelity, and relationships, through the opposite lens of well-planned and executed infidelity.

But this latest book, Until I find you, leaves me completely cold. Its as though Irving just decided to leave in all the weirdness, the colorfulness, the unusual happenings and people. But behind them, there’s nothing at all. Okay, so there’s a man, Jack Burns. Famous actor with a troubled childhood, though the trouble is not clear in the beginning. Then he goes through a troubled life, with pretty much no close relationships and an ability to sleep with just about everyone. He unravels his troubled life gradually and separates the false memories from the true to get to what really happened to him. He realises almost everything bad that can happen, has happened to him. Fine, fine, fine. But it all just feels like a whiner’s story. Though Burns talks a lot about sympathetic roles in movies and sympathetic characters in novels, this novel is sympathetic to no one. Infact it isn’t sympathetic to its readers too. Its pretty boring.

The only interesting bit is the world of the tattoo artists, their close knit lives, the solidarity, the codes, the tattoo world names. Even Hollywood which is supposed to be Burns’ world appears like some shady backdrop, too hazy really to serve any purpose. On the whole, it’s a pretty sordid tale of what can happen to you if your parents don’t bring you up well. And I have to say, its too long a book to read, just to learn that!


Anjali said...

Is it that you 'get over' John Irving at some point? I haven't read him in years, but at one time he was a favourite. I loved 'The World According to Garp' too - but I think my favourite is 'A Prayer For Owen Meany'.

apu said...

Havent read Owen Meany - But seriously I dont know what it is with John Irving. With every book, I've actually enjoyed him less!