Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Born into a happy New England family, John Winslow Irving enjoyed the benefits of his father’s position as teacher of Russian history and treasurer of Phillips Exeter Academy. He attended that prestigious school himself, which under various disguises serves as a setting for many of his novels, including The World According to Garp (1978) and A Prayer for Owen Meany (1989). After several false starts in college, including a year at the University of Vienna, he received his B.A. in 1965 from the University of New Hampshire. Following graduate work in the writing program at the University of Iowa, he became an assistant professor at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts.
His first novel, Setting Free the Bears, was published in 1969 and received more critical attention than most first novels. It is a picaresque novel and a Bildungsroman. Irving made use of his Austrian experiences in this novel, and he introduced many of the themes and motifs that were to reappear in his canon, such as caged bears, motorcycles, and bizarre deaths. He continued to write, relying on academic salaries from small New England colleges, writer residencies, and grants from large institutions. Although his next novels, The Water-Method Man (1972) and The 158-Pound Marriage (1974), sold only about six thousand copies each, he...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
In order to write about the real world, Irving has tried to meet the extraordinary in combat and beat it at its own game. Throughout his sometimes echoing, recurring, and reflective novelistic worlds, a rightness prevails, guided by the hand and eye of the novelist, whose real job is “freeing the bears” of natural human impulses. There is no such thing as seediness or sin in Irving’s novels—all smallness is strengthened by the largeness of life’s positive value, and all sin is washed away by uplifting human emotions.
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Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
John Winslow Irving was born John Wallace Blunt, Jr., on March 2, 1942, in Exeter, New Hampshire. His parents were Colin F. Irving and Frances Winslow Irving. A biological father had departed, and Irving was adopted by his stepfather and renamed when his mother remarried. His adoptive father taught Russian history at Exeter Academy, where Irving attended school. At Exeter, he developed two lifelong interests, writing and wrestling, and became convinced that both required the same skills: practice and determination. Though not an outstanding student, he developed an appreciation of hard, steady work and a love of literature. Of his early apprenticeships Irving remarked in a Rolling Stone interview, “I was a very dull kid. But I really learned how to wrestle and I really learned how to write. I didn’t have an idea in my head.” After graduating from Exeter at the age of nineteen, Irving spent a year at the University of Pittsburgh, where the wrestling competition convinced him that writing was a better career choice.
In 1962, Irving enrolled at the University of New Hampshire, where he began to work with authors Thomas Williams and John Yount, but a desire to see more of the world caused him to drop out. After an intensive summer course in German at Harvard University, he left for Vienna, where he enrolled at the Institute of European Studies. During his two years in Vienna, Irving married Shyla Leary, a painter whom he had met at Harvard,...
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
John Winslow Irving—born John Wallace Blunt, Jr.— has the rare distinction of having achieved both critical acclaim and huge commercial success. He sprang from relative obscurity to fame with The World According to Garp, which became a best-seller, received the American Book Award as the best paperback novel of 1979, and was made into a film, starring Robin Williams, in 1982. His next novel, The Hotel New Hampshire, was also a best-seller and adapted for the screen.
Irving was born to Frances Winslow Irving, and in 1961 he graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy (the school became the model for the Steering School in The World According to Garp), where his stepfather, Colin F. N. Irving, was treasurer and instructor of Russian history. There he was a much better wrestler than he was a student; in fact, wrestling also became a recurrent metaphor in his writing. He attended the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Vienna, Austria, before his graduation cum laude in 1965 from the University of New Hampshire. In 1967 he received an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa, where he studied with the novelists Vance Bourjaily and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Irving’s years as a bohemian student in Vienna, in 1963 and 1964, informed his first novel, Setting Free the Bears. Caged or trained bears are one of the...
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John Winslow Irving was born on March 2, 1942, in Exeter, New Hampshire, the son of Colin F. N. (a teacher) and Frances (Winslow) Irving. In 1961, he graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy, where he excelled at wrestling, and decided to become a writer. From 1961 to 1962, Irving was at the University of Pittsburgh because of its wrestling program, and from 1963 to 1964 he attended the Institute of European Studies, University of Vienna.
In 1965, Irving graduated with a bachelor of arts degree from the University of New Hampshire, and in 1967, he received a masters in fine arts from the University of Iowa. The following year, he became assistant professor of English at Windham College and published his first novel, Setting Free the Bears. More novels soon followed: The Water-Method Man (1972) and The 158-Pound Marriage (1974).
During the 1970s, Irving taught at Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Massachusetts, and Brandeis University and was a writer in residence at the University of Iowa, Iowa City. In 1978, he published a family saga, The World According to Garp, which was his first big commercial success. The book sold 120,000 hardback copies and received critical acclaim. It won the American Book Award in 1980 as the best paperback novel of 1979 and was made into a movie in 1982.
Irving continued his success with another family saga, The Hotel New Hampshire (1981), in which he explored, with...
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IntroductionIt is no wonder that so many of John Irving’s books feature Phillips Exeter Academy. Irving was the son and nephew of faculty members at the school, and it played an important part in his youth. Another big influence in Irving’s life at school was wrestling, which also finds its way into many of his stories, including the 1978 book that catapulted him to fame: The World According to Garp. All of his books published since have been best sellers. In 1999, Irving gained another accolade when his novel The Cider House Rules was made into a successful film that won an Academy Award for best screenplay.
- Irving’s popular book A Prayer for Owen Meany was adapted into a film, but Irving disapproved and insisted that all character names be changed from the novel.
- Irving once publicly criticized author Tom Wolfe in an interview. He said that Wolfe “can’t write.”
- Many of Irving’s books have autobiographical elements, including his 2005 novel Until I Find You. It deals in part with his sexual abuse by an older woman.
- Irving says of his love of writing, “The building of the architecture of a novel—the craft of it—is something I never tire of.”
- In addition to writing, Irving also teaches occasionally and coaches high school wrestling.
A Widow for One Year Review - John Irving - Salem on Literature
The Cider House Rules Review - John Irving - Salem on Literature
The Fourth Hand Review - John Irving - Salem on Literature
John Irving was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, on March 2, 1942. Although Irving has said that The World According to Garp is not autobiographical, there are many similarities between the novelist and the title character. Irving, like Garp, has never met his biological father. (However, Irving's mother gave him some letters his father had written during World War II, and he used his father's experiences for a character in The Cider House Rules. "Being a novelist," Irving once said, "is never throwing anything away.") Irving also grew up at a prep school, Exeter Academy, where his stepfather taught Russian history. He eventually attended the school himself and there acquired his lifelong interests of wrestling and writing. He was an average student, but he later discovered that one of the reasons he struggled was because he was dyslexic.
Irving was disenchanted during his brief time as a student at both the University of Pittsburgh (1961) and the University of New Hampshire (1962). He traveled to Austria in 1963 to attend the University of Vienna and the decision profoundly affected him. He lived in Vienna off and on through much of the 1960s, and the city's influence is seen in his fiction. He also married painter Shyla Leary while he was in Austria. He became the father to two boys, Colin and Brendan. He earned his M. F. A. at the University of Iowa Writers Workshop in 1967, where Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. was one of his mentors. In 1969, he...
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