John Irving American Literature Analysis
Irving has combined academic status and seriousness with a popular appeal that has made him an immensely successful American novelist. His The World According to Garp won several awards, and some three million copies of the paperback version were printed. Ironically, that same popular success is the primary criticism that his detractors seem to be able to level at him. Irving does not experiment with the novel form in the postmodern sense of Gass, Barth, and others; rather, he creates his content with an eye to its uniqueness. An “academic” writer who has succeeded in pleasing a general public, Irving is often accused of retreating from the true “serious” novel form and succumbing to the temptations of financial security and popularity. Admittedly using earlier popular novelists such as Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens, and Laurence Sterne as his models, Irving maintains that academic experimentation for its own sake has no value. While he makes use of accepted narrative elements to tell his story, the events he describes rival the strangeness of life itself, according to Irving.
Several settings and situations serve Irving over and over in his novels. One is the boys’ school setting, like Exeter, but with all the changes and revisions that a novelist would like reality to assume in the fictive form. In A Widow for One Year one of the major characters attends Exeter, and his father is an English professor there. Another favorite...
(The entire section is 6924 words.)
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