Monday, February 15, 2010

The Water-Method Man, by John Irving

This blog post frustrated me. I struggled with it -- with sitting down to write it, with knowing what to write -- despite simply loving the book. It was maybe the funniest Irving I've ever read, eminently enjoyable, with a cast of hilariously messed-up and untrustworthy characters.

But I couldn't write about it.

Then, yesterday, I had a singular experience. The moment itself had nothing particularly outrageous or unexpected, but it belongs to that limited category of times in life when everything takes on a new perspective. When something familiar is translated into new terms. When new lenses make the pictures pop out in full 3-D perspective.

And maybe the moment was a little cliché. But just as clichés are not necessarily invalid, this moment was perhaps all the more valuable for it.

Riding on a train from Santa Fe to Bernalillo, overnight bags on the seats opposite, by-then-lukewarm tea in paper cups, darkness having descended outside, head resting on a scented shoulder, hearing the first chapter of this book read aloud to me, the story was interrupted only by her shocked and delightful laughter.

John Irving is a part of who I am as a person and, to a much greater extent, a writer. I don't know if it was realized or not, but a part of me was shared on that train ride through the empty land north of Albuquerque.

And that's what books are all about. Not the characters, not what makes a story good or enjoyable (or bad and miserable), but about sharing pieces of ourselves. About bringing people closer.

Not bad for what's so often -- and maybe should be less frequently so -- a solitary activity.


  1. It's nice to share those types of moments. Too often they're solitary and can separate us from the rest of the world, because sometimes books are like little walls or shields that divide us from each other. Being able to penetrate that wall over a good book is pretty damn awesome.

  2. It's one thing reading aloud to your niece, nephew, or heck, even your own son or daughter. And it is one thing reading from a book that is momentous to you, sharing with someone those great characters, gripping moments, and imaginary worlds which once had a hand in shaping you. But as the reader, I can say it is something else entirely to read a book that was momentous to someone else; integral to his character. It was an exhilarating experience almost difficult to describe properly, but I'm glad to have shared it with you.