Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Creative Critic: Until I Find You

I finally finished Until I Find You by John Irving. Ohmilord. Where do I even begin a review?

To set the stage, Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany is one of my all-time favorite books. I think it's brilliant. Fortunately, I read it before I read Until I Find You -- because I may never read another Irving book again.

Until I Find You proves that talent is no guarantee of ... well, anything. Irving is obviously a talented writer. And yet ...

The characters in this novel are unappealing and unreal. The only characters with any charm are too-soon killed. The dialogue and much of the action is completely implausible. And repulsive -- do any siblings really discuss the proper way they should kiss each other on the mouth?

Oh, heck. Forget the uncharismatic characters and the overwrought plot. The writing is awful. (By which I mean, not good. Not good at all.) Irving has a ridiculously unnecessary parenthetical phrase (that is to say, not needed) on almost every page. And there are more than 800 pages (which, one might say, would be many chapters indeed).

My big learning came from my buddy Lynn, after she listened to me whine about the novel.

"You don't have to finish it, Janet," she said. "If you're not engaged in a book, stop reading. Find another book."

Next time, I'll listen to Lynn. This time, I kept reading -- hoping against hope that John Irving would pull it out of the fire. He never did. Too bad. He was one of my favorite authors. Until He Lost Me.


Leslie said...

Well, darn, I was hoping it would be good! Interesting, though...I tried to read Last Night in Twisted River--also an Irving title--this summer and gave up on it about halfway through. Kept thinking it would get better but it never did!

Anonymous said...

John Irving had four stupendous novels in a row: Garp, Hotel New Hampshire, Cider House Rules and of course the miraculous Owen Meany. Then he just lost his muse and hasn't put out a great work since. I gave up after Widow for One Year.