I'm in with the "rambling" group; w/ mixed feelings on the "overall" (three stars should really be 3 1/2). You have to keep in mind that this represents a return to the original John Irving. . . you know, like Garp and Hotel New Hampshire, complete w/ bear, New England backdrop, characters w/missing or deformed anatomical parts, and anti-war "message". It is a disguised "me-n-Joe", w/ no plot, or significant "revelation" that shows-up in the end--like Owen Meany, or Cider House, or even Widdow. But, it has a quality that other writers will appreciate: it is the story that "writes itself", lIke the Escher drawing where the hand holding the pencil appears to be drawing itself. Irving uses this unusual technique to share his personal "tricks of the trade" with the reader; giving the inside scoop on how an otherwise "plain-Jane" Me-n-Joe, can be transformed, in Cinderellaesq fashion, into something enjoyable, and grabbing--and it must have had some level of attraction, since all my fellow commentating pundits seem to have made it to the end. I think it works because Irving starts in the middle, then gravitates sideways, then fast forward, then rewind back, then regular speed forward again; only to end up back in the middle. If the book went in chronolical order, I may not have made it to the end. The writing, descriptive scenes, personality, character development, and prose are just outstanding (at one point, I thought I could actually smell the Bear sh. . . . in Ketchem's truck). I have to admit, I learned much on the tradecraft; and I highly recommend it to anyone who is even thinking about writing. (I even find myself writing down lines, sentences, phrases, or even ideas for entire chapters, only to put them down, to be used at some future point in my own works). Oh, a last thought, the repetitive redundancy is noticably overdone,over and over again, . . . . but, maybe that's the whole idea.
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