Monday 6 December 2004

Our inclinations, are hidden in looks

"I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice - not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother's death, but because he is the reason I believe in God: I am a christian because of Owen Meany."

So begins my favourite book, "A Prayer for Owen Meany".

Why is it my favourite book? Well, I am a big fan of John Irving. With the possible exception of Paul Auster, he is my favourite author. I love his characterisation, the way he weaves his plots, the way his characters are rounded and yet not always entirely likeable. Hell, I even quite like the way that all of his books seem to have a protagonist called John who likes wrestling and usually feature a bear in some capacity or other. I had enjoyed a good run of Irving's books when I picked up this one. But all the way through the book, I was mildly disgruntled: it just didn't seem quite right ("not as good as 'The Hotel New Hampshire'" I grumbled). It was good, but not as good as some of his other books, and I wasn't sure why. Then I got to p.632 - pretty much the last page in the whole book - and it all clicked surely into place. I spent ages just sat on my bed, playing the whole thing back in my mind. Totally the most satisying end of any book I have read, and what a master craftsman Irving was to hold the whole thing together and bring it to such a conclusion. Brilliant.

John Irving reckons that line is the best opening sentence of any of his books. If I was writing a book, I think the opening line is where I would start. For this book, above all other books that I have read, this just cannot have been the case. This book was written backwards and you can tell.... the plot signposts are there for all to see, but luckily for me, I only saw them the second time I read the book.

If you haven't read it, go out and find a copy at once (or you can join the waiting list for one of my copies here and here)

What's your favourite book and why?

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