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The Water-Method Man by John Irving

The Water-Method Man (1972)

by John Irving

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Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
I love John Irving and finally decided to search out his earlier works which I'd never read. In The Water-Method Man, we meet Fred "Bogus" Trumper, who is struggling to "grow up": his thesis is unfinished, he has problems committing to his wife and child, he remains drawn to a friend with whom he shared some wild times in Europe. John Irving's ability to write scenes that are both funny and sad is already evident in this book. Quirky characters, but real life. ( )
  LynnB | Apr 20, 2016 |
Irving: always a great read. ( )
  deckla | Apr 5, 2016 |
The novel revolves around the mishaps of its narrator, Fred Trumper, a floundering late-twenty-something graduate student with serious commitment and honesty issues that earn him the nickname "Bogus." The novel shows Irving beginning to develop his famously masterful blend of comedy and pathos, as well as his unparalleled gift for fashioning memorably quirky and endearing characters. It follows a non-linear narrative in the form of a sort of 'confession' authored by Trumper, who humorously recounts his various failures in life and love, from his New England childhood through his experiences on foreign study in Vienna, Austria, and as a graduate student in Iowa, leading up to the present-action setting, early-1970s New York, where Trumper is attempting to sever himself from his adolescent past. 'I want to change,' Trumper says at the end of Chapter one. The phrase seems to be the novel's central theme.

The title refers to a method prescribed to Trumper for the treatment of non-specific urological disorders relating to his abnormally narrow urinary tract--an early sign of Irving's fixation on using physical ailment and disfiguration as metaphorical constructs. Trumper's urologist--the deliciously wicked Frenchman, Dr. Jean Claude Vigneron--offers him three options for the treatment of his disorder: abstinence from sex and alcohol, a painful operation to widen the urinary canal, or the Water Method, which consists simply of consuming abnormal quantities of water before and after sex to flush bacteria out of the urinary tract. Trumper opts for the Water Method, suggesting both his generally comical cowardice and lack of self-discipline.

Trumper's narration meanders through flashbacks revolving around his relationships with the novel's two primary female characters: Sue 'Biggie' Kunft, a former championship downhill skier whom Trumper courts, impregnates, and marries in Vienna while still a student, and Tulpen, Trumper's present day live-in girlfriend, a documentary film editor in New York, where he lands after losing Biggie. Though the two relationships function chiefly as a means of demonstrating Bogus Trumper's tendency to repeat his mistakes, Irving is often regarded for his strong, independent female characters, and Tulpen and Biggie can be seen as markers in the development of the strong women in his more popularly successful novels, particularly The World According to Garp (1979).

Other memorable characters include Trumper's best childhood friend Couth, a still-photographer; Merrill Overturf, a zany, alcoholic and diabetic loon Trumper befriends in Vienna; Ralph Packer, a pretentious documentary filmmaker who employs Trumper as a sound editor; and Colm, Trumper's young son from his first marriage to Biggie.

Trumper is a graduate student at the University of Iowa in comparative literature whose dissertation is to be a translation of an ancient, 'Old Low Norse' epic called 'Akthelt and Gunnel'. Irving employs the 'Akthelt and Gunnel' poem as a means for allowing Trumper to poke merciless fun at himself through analogously inventing the story of the poem according to his own life's mishaps.

Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Water-Method_Man"
  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
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 |
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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."

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(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:33 -0400)

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