“Woe to thee who seeks to please rather tgan to awe”
– John Irving quotes
(author of “Moby Dick”)
John Irving reads from his latest novel and a German speaking actor the recently translated to German edition .
John Irving can speak accent free German rare for most Americans abroad or anyone unable to shake the accent of native tongue !Bravo!
After the reading John Irving is interviewed by a proud swiss literary journalist about his Swiss experience ,thanking him for choosing a swiss publisher for the German translated edition of his latest novel .Asking about ski,John Irving,with his famous dark humor replies that he had stopped skiing after his third knee operation.
John irving on his writing:
*”I am an old fashioned writer. I believe in action”
*”A novel starts when i get angry about what happens to my characters.”
*John Irving :”There has to be an element in the story that should not happen to my dear ones.”
*”I was a teenager when i first read Herman Melville words ;
“Woe to thee who seeks to please rather thanto awe.”,and so i try to shock.
*”Something awful always happens in all my stories and if possible i try to make it happen to someone i love because that way you care.”
*”Shakespeare knew what the plot was. The novels of the 19th century ;Hardy,Dickens,Hawthorne wrote a much worse reality than life and so do i.”
*”Think of how many things thr characters bad things happen to them between 4 to 5 (Ruth in” a widow for one year”)
12 to 15 years old.
If something happens THEN (during those years)it’s not only life lasting but makes you the adult you become.”
Swiss Journalist:The characters are always children.You find a language to describe our crazy world. Is it a metaphor for our world?
John Irving:”There’s a moment in David Copperfield (My second favorite novel)he’s disappointed by what a mess life is,it’s not as well constructed(as novels) ,he doesn’t know where he got the idea that life has a plan,it’s because of children’s stories he had read;novels have to be better made.Real life is disappointing but I don’t think you can appreciate the sadness of the characters without having had a contrast:characters having also fun.
If it’s always serious you won’t notice the difference!”
Swiss journalist:Do you think our world is more crazy?
John Irving:”Human behavior has always been disappointing.There are thematic repetitions i choose-I repeat them however they’re still awful.These issues i had hoped would improvr but i don’t see it has.
“Garp”I wrote 40 years ago ,I’m writing a series now for public t.v. because sexual differences are still an issue.
After “Cider house rules”,feminists told me,it’s solved,soon everyone would have it.It’s worse today.
There’s more difficulties for abortions today.
Do innocent children die for stupid reasons?Yes,they do.
You don’t get to choose your nightmares,they choose you;what keeps you up at night.”
Swiss journalist:Günter Grass adviced not to lose his anger.
John Irving:”it was impossible to be as angry as Günter was.I tried.
(The audience applauds im apparent approval)
I remember when i first came to Europe as a university student in Vienna and in 1969 to 1970 trying to write a film not made. It was a good experiencr how to write a screen play but i remember things in the 60’s 80’s whwn i came to Europe a lot. I thought Europe wad more progressive in sexual matters whereas in the US i found backwards but things don’t get better.It is better it is not correct,it’s a little better but in Europe it got worse in terms of intolerance(in general).
The problems USA and Europe face are not the same but yoy have the same people reacting against ANY CHANGE,I think it’s going in a backwards direction.
Swiss journalist:You put political engagement into your books-also this latest book.
John Irving:”This novel was slower.It’s been a while.
The children of the rubbish get attention from the jesuits orphanage because he is a reader(Juan Diego)
The character loses his sister and that will mark his life. He’s 14 years old boy. The Jesuits own him and the only oned who want him are two gay men.”
*”I always begin with what happens at the end.
A miracle happens.
The virgin Mary has got to get involved
1.The terrible death of his sister
2.The miracle of having been adopted by gay men approved by the catholic church.”
*It’s a good story for a film but a novel can do more.
The novel can do the effect of the passage of time that plays and films can’t do.
The boy 40 years later goes to the Philippines to keep a promise to a vietnam draft avoider.
*”The childhood is fast paced in the novel.He is depressed.He is alone .His life in imagination is more important to him than reality.”
*The last sentence in 14 novels is still the same
“Not every collison course serves as a surprise.”
*”I write things down at first but then sometimes i don’t need notes anymore.”
*”I don’t need a work place”
*”it’s a very slow work.
“Magical illusion”is a phrase invented by critics for describing Gunther Grass and Garcia Marquez and i but it is just a phrase.”
*”The chkldden go virgin shopping for the right one. There are many virgins in Mexico.”
*Knowing the future is not only a quality of a character in this novel but also lily in “Hotel New Hampshire” who said
“Keep passing the open windows”
(I say the quote with John Irving at the same time though it has been more than 25 years since i last read this novel!)
*”Owen Meannie believes he can see the future,he thinks he can save vietnamese children but he will end up dying in the US because of the war .”
*”Lupe in this latest novel might be wrong but what she does will change her brother’s future.
*”The virgin Mary comes through at the end with a miracle but not the firsr time when Diego becomes a cripple”
*”I live with the characters enough. Normally when i do an adaptation to a novel it takes a long time. Last time 4 directors.one died. One i fired.”
*”we are all incurable cases”
-“The world according to Garp”is a key sentence.
Roberta is the only one who may say it.
John Irving talks about the importance of research for a novel about details ;how long it takes to travel to a hospital,what a morgue looks like for example whereas in a film one can cheat and find ways to falsify reality.
The Zurich theater playhouse was packed and the reading was sold out but i went in any way presented myself bravely as a blogger and got in at the last row.
There was silence like in a religious place ,typical of any swiss gathering place ,even a rock concert,so i was afraid to breathe or that the sound of my pen would irritate someone.
I recalled an oversensitive Bostonian once grabbing my pencil in anger when i sketched as was my habit during a concert so i guess i am attracted to conservative repressive socities with many rules i hate but as John Irving explained,it might be the contrast that creates the drama that is the fate of some of us living in this world of ours where the plot is seldom as beautifully constructed or logical as in well written novels.
The humor is what is needed ,i think,and John Irving has plenty of that and this is what we all need in this mad world of our especially the Swiss and Trump candidate US.
With or without humor the grim reaper awaits us all fictional or nonfictional characters so lets keep passing the open windows!