John Irving on stage in Toronto
Last Sunday I snuck away from regular family weekend activities to see John Irving at the International Festival of Authors (IFOA) here in Toronto. Regular readers of this blog (both of you) may recall that John Irving has been an inspiration to me. The emotional impact of his writing and the laughs along the way make him one of my literary heroes. A Prayer for Owen Meany, quite possibly my all time favourite novel, restored my interest in fiction back in the late 80s, and I’ve never looked back. Needless to say, seeing him in person, along with hundreds of other fans as part of the IFOA, was a thrill.
He talked about this writing process, including his immutable first step of writing the last sentence of his novel first, before anything else. It was fascinating to hear him talk about how it all comes together. He then read from his new novel, Last Night inTwisted River. One thing I’ve learned in the last year, as I’ve read with other authors at a variety of festivals and readings, is that not all authors can read. There is an art to reading well, not to mention a smidgen of theatre. It is a performance of sorts. John Irving had the room spellbound. I can’t imagine anyone listening to him read and then walking by the book table without snagging one on the way out.
Finally, he was interviewed by Seamus O’Regan, one of our TV morning show hosts, before the floor was opened for questions. It was a memorable event for me. I’m about to start Last Night in Twisted River, said to be his most autobiographical novel to date.