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The Water-Method Man by John Irving
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The Water-Method Man (1972)

by John Irving

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
I was pleasantly surprised in reading this early John Irving novel to find so many precursors of the documentary style I first encountered in The World According to Garp. In addition to both first-person and third-person passages of narrative, the book is filled with letters, bits of film scripts, translations of a supposed Nordic epic, and other bits of ephemera. Irving's liberal doses of humor, much of it morose if not actually dark, are also on display, as is his skill at creating memorable, unusual characters and complex comic scenarios.

Because I have so enjoyed his later works, I was glad to discover that these elements were well developed even in this, his second novel. Though why I didn't expect them to be is a mystery to me. I suppose early novels often fail to measure up to later ones, which is of course natural, and if one comes to the early works late, then they feel like examples of an author's waning powers, when of course they're hints of what was to come later.

While The Water-Method Man is clearly the work of a writer building up to something even greater, it holds up quite well on its own. If I had stopped reading it 3/4 of the way through, I think I would have rated it higher than I did, because it was only the final stretch of the book that I felt the pace falter, and I wished for something more out of the final chapters. In part this is because the structure of the book, in which the main character's current relationship, earlier marriage, and even earlier courtship, are relayed in alternating chapters. By the time one reads enough to ties those strands together thoroughly, it feels as if there should be a resolution already close at hand, but there is a further development yet to come, and as a reader, I was by that time just as annoyed with the protagonist's inability to commit himself to anything as were all the people he'd left behind.

Maybe this was intentional, but it made the last part of the book less enjoyable than the first part. The protagonist certainly doesn't do much in most of the book to engender anyone's good will, apart from his often amusing antagonism and his tendency toward failure in spite of his obvious intellectual gifts. So after he has fled from all those who have tried to help him throughout most of the novel, it's hard to root for his success. Yet he does succeed, and while that success is proportional to his efforts, it does not feel as hard-won as one might expect. His frank, self-effacing failure has simply been too well-catalogued. His redemption, by comparison, seems a little too easy.

Still, I'll remember this novel for a long time to come, and that's an important distinction when so many books fade from memory. And I'll very likely try the other few early Irving novels I haven't read, because I trust there are treasures there to find.

( )
  phredfrancis | Feb 8, 2014 |
Fred 'Bogus' Trumper suffers an embarrassing complaint that he is encouraged to try to solve without the intervention of surgery, but hat is not his only problem. With one failed marriage behind him he is now in another relationship, he has a young son by his former wife and his new girl wants a family too. But as with all things in Bogus' life he finds it difficult to make a decisions and commitments.

The Water-Method Man is no doubt the funniest of John Irving's novels that I have read, but it is much more than that (just as well for I do not generally read books for the humour - I have a problem seeing the humour when I read to myself - but I know that if I heard it read aloud I would find it very funny indeed!). The relatively
small cast of characters is easy to warm to despite their individual failings, and one is soon hoping that they will be able to sort out all their problems. ( )
  presto | Jun 26, 2013 |
A funny and short novel, and a nice change from Irving's usual story elements, i.e. bears and wrestling. ( )
  SimoneA | Nov 2, 2010 |
Cannot get into this book - have picked it up again and again and it just doesn't capture me. ( )
  estellen | May 6, 2008 |
Hilarious coming of age type novel and the only Irving I can stand. Full of really weird characters and bizzare situations, this is great farce. Fred 'Bogus' Trumper (aka Thump-Thump) goes from bad to worse in the attempt to get his shit together. His long-suffering wife Biggie, old friend Cuth and deranged boss Ralph Packer alternately make things better and worse. Then there is the mysterious Merrill Overturf - did he really exist? Was there really a pee-cup incident? And just how does his current girlfriend Tulpen find the strength to stick around when Ralph decides Bogus's failure of an existence would make a smashing film? Side trips through Bogus's translation of an epic poem in "Old Low Norse" make for really great counterpoints in the overall story. ( )
2 vote Bookmarque | Jan 9, 2008 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Irving, Johnprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Broek, C.A.G. van denTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Des Pres, TerrenceAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 034541800X, Paperback)

The main character of John Irving's second novel, written when the author was twenty-nine, is a perpetual graduate student with a birth defect in his urinary tract--and a man on the threshold of committing himself to a second marriage that bears remarkable resemblance to his first....
"Three or four times as funny as most novels."
THE NEW YORKER


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(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:24:44 -0400)

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