I was disappointed by The Water Method Man, which is John Irving s second book No agent would be able to sell this book today the story is interesting, but the execution is weak Irving s prose is confusing and inconsistent, with jumps from first to third person and seemingly random changes in POV Further, the narrative has so many flashbacks that it is difficult to follow what is happening now, versus one year ago, versus two, three or four years ago.The main character, Fred Bogus Trumper, is never fully realized As a result, his eventual epiphany seems to lack depth It is difficult to understand what the two female characters both strong, beautiful and otherwise confident women except when it come to Trumper see in him as a romantic counterpart he seems fully detached from the world around him andinterested in himself than anyone around him, characteristics which for most women would be an immediate turn off.Irving s treatment of his female characters leaves something to be desired Both Biggie and Tulpen, despite the fact that they are strong and confident women, seem to need a man to define them either a partner or a son , which strikes me as dichotomous Why would women who are so self actualized require a man to get by I can only find two reasons for this Either the novel is dating itself, having been published in 1972 and being read by a 2009 feminist myself , OR Irving is demonstrating a level of immaturity and a limited understanding of women common to men his age Irving was 29 years old when he wrote The Water Method Man I tend to think it is a combination of both, as his female characters tend to bewell rounded in his later works that I have read The Water Method Man isn t quite as funny as the cover blurbs make it out to be, but it is clever and very sad at the same time The beginning was intriguing and the ending was satisfying, but he middle seemed to meanderthan necessary This book hints at the future inventiveness and ingenuity of Irving s later works, but truly this is a sophomoric effort For Irving fans, I certainly recommend reading this I enjoyed it simply for the fact that it helped me see how Irving has developed as a writer For those who have not read Irving, I would recommend reading a later book, such as The World According to Garp or Until I Find You, first If you dislike Irving, then you might enjoy reading this book simply for the sheer joy of pointing out its flaws. Technically a 2.5 star rating.I m a big big fan of Irving s later books Garp, Owen Meany, Cider House Rules, Until I Find You so I was intrigued to read one of his earlier works But, it was nowhere as good, which I should have expected This was choppier anduneven inconsistent than I m used to from Irving, and his storytelling skill is not nearly as good compelling as it becomes.Irving obviously naturally gravitates towards flawed, quirky characters, but in this book had not yet quite honed his ability to make them whole and human The constant unpredictable changes in POVs were somewhat annoying and distracting, as was his habit of referring to the main character by various nicknames, often in the same sentence I imagine this was purposeful and intended to emphasize Trumper s lack of depth, identity, purpose etc, but it didn t really work, generally detracting from rather than adding to the story.As always with Irving, childhood abandonment is a key theme poor Irving , and fathers that leave, although I mused to the actual fathers being absent from his books, rather than having the story told from the father s perspective It is hard to be on this father s side, as it s obvious Irving hasn t quite achieved an understanding of the absent father s motivations, which is reinforced by the whole cast of characters saying things to Trumper like You just leave You don t even know why and Trumper conceding that, yes yes, they are all right He just leaves He doesn t know why.And he Irving and or Trumper never really addresses that, never figures out why Trumper leaves with such frequency, which is largely why the ending feels too forced, abrupt and pat, neatly tied up with a ribbon It was unsatisfying, as Trumper doesn t have to deal with any real consequences of his actions, and his character arc feels unprompted and unbelievable He just seems to have this random moment of this is what I m going to do and so he does it also completely out of character for no good reason, and then he repents his errant ways and lives happily ever after It was a bit jarring. 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 From The Paperback Edition When R.E.M recently broke up, it occurred to me that I hadn t bought one of their CD s or downloaded any of their songs for my iPod, now that CD s are passe , since Automatic for the People which was released in 1992 Everything else was from Out of Time, Green, Document, or Life s Rich Pageant all released between 1986 and 1991 That means that their last seven albums never made it onto my radar.Some of this has to do with the fact that I adopted many of my favorite songs between 1988 and 1994 But I ve heard R.E.M s later work, now and then, on the radio, and it just doesn t resonate with me I used to listen to Pop Song 89 every day after school during my senior year of high school, blaring it on my yes cassette deck as I tore out of the parking lot, headed over to pick up my girlfriend from her school I made a really crappy recording of The One I Love using my friend Leo as a fake DJ to try and seal the deal with a different girl, a year earlier let s just say editing is a lotseamless today I Am Superman was my sign off song during my brief career as a DJ on KSMU Radio, which had the giant broadcast area of the Hughes Trigg Student Center and no further.The newer R.E.M stuff, to me, goes in two directions the weird What s The Frequency, Kenneth has a quirky title and is loud and catchy, but so did Sliver, and we all know how that turned out and the vapid yes, Reveal, I m talking to you the whole disc R.E.M had an amazing sound, but they didn t figure out how to keep it or success made the karma blow away.My first encounter with a John Irving novel happened in a hotel near Orly Airport in Paris I was on my way back to the U.S after six weeks in Europe four in a study program and two traveling around with friends and I d just gotten off a long train ride from Heidelberg to the capital of France It was late, my flight left the next morning, and I saw The World According to Garp in a store in the Paris train station I remembered the movie title I hadn t seen it , so I grabbed it on a whim I checked into my hotel, laid my clothes out for my plane ride the next morning, and got in bed with the book.Six hours later, I finally put the book down done The whirlwind that T.S Garp and his mother, Jenny Fields, created, and the toll it took on them both, that brought Garp to a tragic end at the Christlike age of 33, swirled around in my mind The next day, when my flight was delayed for six hours because of a faulty engine, I didn t even mind that much, because I was busy reading the book again.And so, when I got home, I rented The World According to Garp and watched it Like I would discover about all of the adaptations of Irving s books, the movies have to leave so much out that it s like watching a marionette play of the book The closest that any movie gets to its Irving original, in my opinion, is The Door in the Floor but to get that close to Irving s grandeur in scope, it has to leave out a full half of the novel that inspired it A Widow for One Year.So, instead, I decided to read everything else that Irving had written, from the beginning Setting Free the Bears and The 158 Pound Marriage didn t do much for me, but The Water Method Man did It s about Bogus Trumper, who is having a really hard time making the leap from adolescence to manhood He got his first wife, Biggie, pregnant right after they met, which led to a marriage far earlier in his life than he probably would have planned Weighed down in Iowa by the poverty of life as a grad student, his young son, and his wife s expectations, he philanders and then just runs away to Europe, looking for his lost youth, symbolized by the nebulous character Merrill Overturf, who used to try to hook up with girls through such odd rituals as swimming out into the Danube and showing them a tank that had crashed down through the river.Of course, there is no such tank, and when Bogus returns to Europe, he can t even find Merrill By the time he gets back, his wife has divorced him and moved on to his best friend He takes a job in New York City with his old friend, Ralph Packer, editing the sound for his films He meets a new girl, has a baby with her, but then runs back to Iowa to finish his graduate degree.In short, Bogus life is disjointed The structure of the novel, a wonderful mishmash of letters, diary entries, newspaper reviews, told in an order thatresembles a view through a kaleidoscope than chronological narration, suits the main character perfectly We even get an allusion to Moby Dick at the end.The endings to most of Irving s early novels are glorious things, with explanations of what happened to everyone and, in general, these explanations are stories of purpose and power.Somewhere, though, John Irving has lost his way The whimsy that dances through The Water Method Man and the powerful themes that run through The Hotel New Hampshire the power of family despite a blind, befuddled father , The Cider House Rules the right of a woman to choose and A Prayer for Owen Meany if Christ really were the Messiah, what would it be like to witness his coming, and to believe have faded, replaced by navel gazing.Irving s newest novel, In One Person, will certainly be a best seller, simply based on the author s name Irving belongs in any discussion of the top five American novelists since 1930 But his latest efforts, Until I Find You and Last Night in Twisted River, made me feel caught in an eddy that swirled around and around the hole the author feels within himself His earlier novels were about missing fathers, which made for an almost mystical aura All of his novels teem with lust and sensuality, but they have always had a purpose in reaching a bigger theme In his last two novels, these elements have become virtually gratuitous In interviews, Irving and his publicists promise us a novelpolitical than any he has written in recent years He is at his best when he writes either with the passion of a conviction or the whimsy of a jester We ll see whether either one of these made it this time. This is one of his earlier books, and it is amazingly written The first sentence alone still makes me shake my head in wonder. i want to read this because the main character has frequent urinary tract infections but i cannot get into it. The Water Method is John Irving s second book, written when he was 29 years old, but it certainly doesn t sound like it This is, in fact, one of the funniest books I ve read in a long time It isn t too hard for me to find a book that will make me smile, but it is a rare pleasure to find one that will make me laugh out loud.The story follows the stalled and frustrated life of Fred Trumper alternately known as Thump Thump and Bogus , a 29 year old graduate student who can t seem to pay bills, finish his thesis, or maintain a healthy relationship with a woman In addition to these fairly normal problems, Fred also has to deal with a twisted urinary tract that causes him no end of problems Given the choice between corrective surgery and something called the water method, well, you can guess which one he opts for.In spite of some peculiar, interesting, and hilarious scenes, the basic plot of this story is nothing new Marriage and dating struggles, infidelity, raising children, and love triangles are all problems dealt with in the book, but even if the subject matter tends towards the mundane, Irving s stylish and clever writing makes it enjoyable to read about Especially clever are the various allusions to the Old Low Norse manuscript that Fred is attempting to translate for his thesis paper, and how its dramatic and epic elements mirror thoserealistic experiences through which Fred must struggle.I think even Irving was aware of the rather stunted nature of the premise Fred is friends and co workers with an independent film maker named Ralph Packer who ends up making a movie about Fred the film s title is not really appropriate for this website, however Various reviews and comments on the film actually mirror what negative things one might have to say about the novel itself, so on that score, I give Irving points for his tongue in cheek humility and for the subtle and witty self mockery.Although, much like water itself, this book is certainly thirst quenching, there isn t too much substance here It is refreshing nonetheless, and is a delight to read. 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 somethingout 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. this book is so unique in that it s absolutely not what you would expect from john irving It s only his second or third book, and you can see the beginnings of Garp in it, but it s so simple and streamlined compared to some of his later work It s a sweet, funny story with extremely memorable characters in fact, I can t believe it hasn t been made into a movie yet I think it s crying out to be A movie about a book about the making of a movie Also, it made me start going around flipping my tit at people who are full of it, and eating lots of yogurt. To be honest, I found this novel something of a confusing jumble It flits between first and third person narrative, the places Vienna, Iowa, New York and Maine and is continually moving back and forward in time The beginning is promising enough PhD student Fred Bogus Trumper consults renowned urologist Dr Jean Claude Vigneron about a particularly painful dose of clap with which he has been afflicted, so it would seem, since he was a teenager Not being enthusiastic about a possible surgical solution, he elects to pursue the so called water method of the title in an effort to cure him of this impediment for good At this point I was hoping that things would take off but sadly the novel failed to sustain this initial comic momentum.It wasn t abundantly clear to begin with, whether Bogus was with Biggie or Tulpen or both since time frames weren t made obvious This may have been a failure on my part, but it took me a good few chapters to get the chronology straight The characters feel less well developed than those in Irving s later novels and the plot fails, in my view, to live up to its original promise the Merrill Overturf diversion, while entertaining, felt like the nucleus of a very different novel a thriller perhaps.In conclusion, I found this a disappointing and frustrating read which is only really of interest as a precursor to Irving s later and infinitely better works.
JOHN IRVING was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, in 1942 His first novel, Setting Free the Bears, was published in 1968, when he was twenty six He competed as a wrestler for twenty years, and coached wrestling until he was forty seven Mr Irving has been nominated for a National Book Award three times winning once, in 1980, for his novel The World According to Garp He received an O Henry Award
- 272 pages
- The Water-Method Man
- John Irving
- 03 March 2019 John Irving