The John Adams Institute proudly presented an evening with widely acclaimed American novelist, John Irving, on Monday 15 April 2002. Following his earlier visits to the Institute in 1991 and 1994, John Irving returned to discuss his work in retrospective. Dutch journalist and literary critic for NRC Handelsblad, Pieter Steinz, introduced Mr. Irving and moderated questions from the audience.
John Winslow Irving was born (1942) and raised in Exeter, New Hampshire. He later studied at the universities of Pittsburgh and Exeter, where he busied himself not only with literature, but also with wrestling. It was his high school wrestling coach who told him he wasn’t very talented but ‘an underdog is in a position to take a healthy bite.’ In 1963 Irving left for a year of studies at the University of Vienna, Austria.
John Irving, who counted himself neither a born athlete nor a born writer, made his breakthrough in 1978 with The World According to Garp. Some four years later, his novel The Hotel New Hampshire proved equally successful. Other books such as The Ciderhouse Rules (1985), A Prayer for Owen Meany (1988) which deals with growing up in the pre-Vietnam era, A Son of the Circus (1994) and A Widow for One Year (1998) perhaps Irving’s most autobiographical novel, received unanimous praise by critics and readers. Irving received an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Ciderhouse Rules, and his experiences in writing the screenplay are described in My Movie Business (2002).
Irving, famous for his comically convoluted plots and his penchant for violent fates and endless epilogues, has always loved epic novelists. ‘I couldn’t get enough of Dickens, although he presented a challenge to my dyslexia.’ Irving considers himself a storyteller in the tradition of the 19th century. ‘When I first read Graham Greene in prep school, he showed me that exquisitely developed characters and heartbreaking stories were the obligations of any novel worth remembering.’
Moderator: Pieter Steinz
In collaboration with: De Bezig Bij Publishing House, Van Ditmar Book Importers, United Airlines, Embassy of the United States, AEGON, The Netherland-America Foundation