In Dog Ears #6 I listed some of my favorite bits from the first half of John Irving's A Prayer For Owen Meany, but not before expressing my hope that the lull that'd set in about 200 pages into the 617 page novel would end soon.
Sadly, I felt it never did. This was a book that ended with a bang AND a whimper, but mostly with relief that it was finally over.
Soon after the fun of meeting the town of Gravesend for the first time had worn off, and the tragic events that set the story in motion had played out, the book settled into a repetitive loop of heavy-handed foreshadowing and even less novelistic political editorializing. The split arena gambit of telling the story in flashback and in the narrator's Owen-less present backfired severely, and I was sorely tempted to skim any page that took place in the late 80s.
It's one thing to weave in a political theme or point of view, and quite another to hijack what had been a promising tale of predestination vs free will in order to deliver pious shrill rants. This will almost certainly be the last Irving I read.
That said, I did dog-ear quite a few pages in the second half. Let's see how they go down the second time around...
p.372 "She possessed all the up-to-date information that often passes for intelligence among people who make a daily and extensive habit of the New York Times..."
(that one hit a little close to home!)
p.419 peavey: noun ( pl. -veys or -vies)
a lumberjack's cant hook with a spike at the end.
ORIGIN late 19th cent.: from the surname of the inventor.
p. 419 cant dog: noun
another term for cant hook .
(OK... I guess I have to look up cant hook)
cant hook: noun
a hinged metal hook at the end of a long handle, used for gripping and rolling logs.
p. 430 "THE COUNTRY WANTS A SAVIOR. THE COUNTRY IS A SUCKER FOR POWERFUL MEN WHO LOOK GOOD. WE THINK THEY'RE MORALISTS AND THEN THEY JUST USE US."
p. 450 macadam: noun
broken stone of even size used in successively compacted layers for surfacing roads and paths, and typically bound with tar or bitumen.
• a stretch of road with such a surface.
p. 458 "... Canada sold the United States over five hundred million dollars' worth of ammunition and other war supplies... ... by 1970, Canada–"per capita"–was earning more money as an international arms exporter than any other nation in the world..."
p. 515 addlepated: along with "addleheaded, a synonym for "addlebrained," which means "lacking in common sense; having a muddled mind"
p522 (on discussing the difficulty of teaching students wit)
"It's always description that they miss; I swear, they think it's unimportant. They want dialogue, they want action; but there's so much writing in the description!"
p543 "I will tell you what is my overriding perception of the last twenty years: that we are a civilization careening toward a succession of anticlimaxes–toward an infinity of unsatisfying and disagreeable endings."
5 days ago