Reading notes: A Widow For One Year

Revealed preference matters. Whatever I say about what I do and do not like and value, I have read four John Irving novels. That puts him #2 by novel count (I've read five of Jane Austen's) and almost certainly #1 by page count. And I don't regret reading any of those 700,000 or so words.

I am unlikely to say much that's new about the book. But:

  1. Googling suggests that the connection between A Widow for One Year and The Great Gatsby is insufficiently appreciated (contemplating the stars in the orbit of Manhattan, carrying a torch for a really long time, etc.). It's a good question which presents the more optimistic picture of torch-carrying.
  2. The author's interview that came with my edition was illuminating. This is partly for the notes about how he works (diligently, and spending huge amounts of time outlining the book before literally writing it) and for how he embraces his reputation as a sentimentalist. I was reminded of Josh Groban's interview with Brian Koppelman, where he discussed the advantages of not being "cool" (or aspiring to coolness, at least) in a creative profession.
  3. It's not quite a top-100 book for me, but close (probably #120 or so as I write this). The other three Irving novels all still make the cut.
  4. Irving seems to have gone from medium-famous to very obscure, but that could be a function of my intellectual context more than anything else. (Computer people are way less into long, sentimental American novels than the average reader.) I remember an Owen Meany question on Jeopardy! just a couple years ago.

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