Wallace, Irving (Vol. 13)
The flap about [The Chapman Report's] overt sexuality was less than justified, especially when that novel is compared with The Sins of Philip Fleming. The earlier novel was much more sexually explicit, but no one bothered to attack it. The sexual controversy overlapped into the charges that Wallace had manufactured a bestseller by stringing together frantic sex with a scant story line. But if sex sold Chapman, then sex should have sold Fleming.
Wallace wrote Chapman because he wanted to write about married women and their problems—the sexual problems being minor compared to the insensitivity and stupidity of men. Thematically, Chapman is less about sexual matters than about the tensions of suburbia and how they are manifested in a variety of unhappy ways. If Chapman was bought and read for its sex, then many readers were disappointed. As Wallace told the Italian press after the novel was temporarily banned in Italy:
I have not and cannot write obscenely or immorally. I have written of love and sex in candid terms, and I shall again. In The Chapman Report I was writing not to stimulate, but to reflect an area of American society with which I am deeply acquainted. Too, I wished to explore certain aspects of female unhappiness and frustration in today's world. I wrote of American women I know—but perhaps I wrote of all women....
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In beginning [research for a book], I'm always curious to investigate what psychological motives bring a certain person into his field or profession. Why is a surgeon a surgeon? Why does he enjoy cutting flesh? Why is a psychiatrist a psychiatrist? Why does he like to tune in on patients' private lives? Why does that woman like to teach, and why does this man like to dig into the earth? And so—for The Word—why did this man choose to become a man of God? And, indeed, how much of a man of God is he truly? Is his motive spiritual, one of pure faith, and a desire to make life more bearable, and the certainty of death more acceptable to others? Or is his motive a desire for power and authority? Or is his motive more crass, a decision to promote belief in God in order to make a livelihood or gain wealth? (pp. 185, 187)
By the time I was ready to write, I was writing about a subject as familiar to me as my own life. Indeed, the world of religion had become part of my life.
My earliest concept of The Word was to make it an inside story about the people who inhabit the world of Bible publishing…. But as time passed, my approach to this novel began to change, and in the end I discarded most of this Bible publishing research and concentrated more on churchmen, theologians, and ordinary people seeking faith.
And, of course, as I wrote, I found I was writing more and more about myself. I mean,...
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Ray B. Browne
In development, Wallace's novels start from a large and ranging base. Then they grow pyramidally, gradually concentrating the plot and shedding sub-plots and details as they rise until eventually the top is reached and the problem is solved. These plots are rich and complex, or they are overly complicated and confusing, depending on the reader's point of view…. [He] must have room and time to develop his novels in considerable detail to get across his message.
Once this message has been developed, however, after the puzzle has been solved, Wallace seems to lose most of his interest in the book…. [Wallace] is actually mostly gripped by the themes themselves. Little wonder then that after the questions and answers have been demonstrated and worked out, the author rushes to close the book, apparently content to erase the characters once they have illustrated his point. (p. 435)
Wallace assumes that after the problem raised in the novel has been settled, the world, which he does not see as having been really endangered, will rock on at about the same keel. Wallace's world is not as dark as those of many other writers….
[Perhaps] it may seem absurd to say that Wallace can be embarrassed by sex and uses restraint in portraying it. But the statement holds. Wallace is the first to admit that sex sells books and that he wants to sell his works. But he also insists that sex is life and that he, if he...
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"The Two" is as much a curiosity as its subject [the life of Siamese twins]. The details of the collaboration between Irving Wallace, the novelist, and his daughter [Amy], a literary tyro, are not elucidated, but it seems unlikely that he spent much time on it. The lengthy list of acknowledgments includes Walter Kempthorne, whose "tireless correspondence and interviews, his initiative and persistence as a literary detective, truly made this book possible." Mr. Kempthorne's wife, Elizebethe, is thanked for "scholarship, fact checking and editing." Six other researchers here and abroad are cited by name.
Indeed, the book reads like a series of researchers' reports. The writing is flat, there is no point of view, and instead of a social context there are maddening irrelevancies. For example: The twins make a voyage, and the reader is treated to a minute description of the ship, its owner and his role in maritime commerce.
Chang and Eng, though, remain elusive. They were three-quarters Chinese, rather than Siamese. They spoke little, according to their families and friends, and seldom to each other. Proximity enforced mutual toleration. Their letters were formal in tone and content. Thus, their thoughts and emotions go largely unchronicled, and there are none of the imagined conversations that are an Irving Wallace hall-mark.
Nor does "The Two" provide any information about Siamese twins in general. (pp....
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