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.