Last Night at Twisted River opens with an accident. Angel Pope, a young man from Toronto, hesitates on the floating logs. His foot stops for a brief moment. His descent into the water is so fast that no one has a chance to offer him a helping hand. After reaching for him in the frigid water, Ketchum breaks his wrist between the slamming logs jamming together; that brief moment of hesitation causes Angel’s death. Such moments are a signature of Irving. In this case, they also portend a major theme in the novel.

Accidents move the plot forward. They also allow the reader to evaluate the decisions of the characters as they react. After the accidental death of Injun Jane, Danny and his father are projected into the plot as two characters wandering to escape investigation. As an adult, Danny reflects on his life and how his father always told him that “life is full of accidents,” which is an unusual lesson for a child. In the end, the accidents are the only consistent theme that holds Danny’s life together. Even his chance encounter with Lady Sky does not end with her accidentally falling on is lap; he is re-united with her later in life and she “unpredictably” becomes the love of his life. Accidents and unpredictability are the finer points of the novel’s construction.

Fame vs. Anonymity
Danny Angel allows Irving to discuss the question of fame and anonymity. The success that comes from Danny’s writing is a source of accomplishment but also frustration. Irving uses this example to draw a line in the public’s perceptions and assumptions. Danny’s work is analyzed for any trace of autobiography. This is especially troublesome for Danny as he has been running from a murder his entire adult life. The more important issue about fame is that it obscures the work, the novel, and the art. Danny achieves anonymity when he changes his name. But as an author he just has another name—and that is his identity. Irving’s questions about fame, identity, and anonymity prompt the reader to consider who Danny really is. How might his life, and interpretations of his work, be different if he had kept his real...

(The entire section is 887 words.)