As I have said before, John Irving is my favourite living author. Naturally, I set my google calendar to send me a reminder to my blackberry the day his new book In One Person came out. And then had to navigate all sorts of hurdles put out for me when the main Chapters in Downtown Ottawa didn’t have the book in stock(!)
Of course wouldn’t you know it, the book came out during a month where a) I was moving, b) I was starting a full-time job and c) said full-time job was keeping me very busy, when moving and my own book promotion wasn’t. Consequently, I’ve been proceeding through this book at a far slower pace. I’ve been enjoying it, though it is, to be certain, going to be one of Irving’s more middling books. I can tell early on.
But there’s still enough of the genius of John Irving’s writing to keep me enraptured, so I’m happy. Such as this little bit of exposition, nestled in a conversation between our hero William Abbott and his childhood crush, the librarian Miss Frost:
I confessed to her that I hadn’t come to the library to read. I told Miss Frost that I was trying to get away from friends—so that I could write.
“You’ve come here, to the library, to write,” she repeated. I remembered that Miss Frost had a habit of repeating what you said. Nana Victoria said that Miss Frost must have enjoyed the repetition, because by repeating what you said to her, she could keep the conversation going a little longer. (Aunt Muriel had claimed that no one liked to talk to Miss Frost.)
I love what Irving has done here: he’s finally drawn attention to a character tic which has been going for the previous 50 pages or so, but has done so through anecdotes from his bitchy grandmother and aunt, which adds to the setting of a small town where everyone gossips about the other, makes the relatives seem more judgmental and elicits more sympathy for the haughty Miss Frost. It’s a tiny piece of prose that accomplishes so much. I love that man.