At Home With John Irving

Ear­li­er this year, at the age of 70, John Irv­ing pub­lished his 13th nov­el, In One Per­son. The title is from Shake­speare’s Richard II: “Thus play I in one per­son many peo­ple, and none con­tent­ed.” “In One Per­son,” writes Charles Bax­ter in The New York Review of Books, “com­bines sev­er­al gen­res. It is a nov­el about a bisex­u­al man’s com­ing out graft­ed onto a com­ing-of-age sto­ry, graft­ed onto a por­trait-of-the-artist, graft­ed onto a the­ater nov­el. The book is very enter­tain­ing and relies on ver­bal show­man­ship even when the events nar­rat­ed are grim, a tonal incon­gruity char­ac­ter­is­tic of this author. The book’s theme, it’s fixed idea, is that actors and writ­ers and bisex­u­als har­bor many per­sons with­in one per­son.”

In this five-minute film from Time mag­a­zine we get just a glimpse of the per­son, or peo­ple, called John Irv­ing. It’s an inter­est­ing glimpse. Direc­tor Shaul Schwarz and his crew filmed the writer at his sprawl­ing house in East Dorset, Ver­mont. The sheer size of the place gives some sense of the pop­u­lar­i­ty of Irv­ing’s nov­els, which include The World Accord­ing to Garp, The Cider House Rules and A Prayer for Owen Meany. The house has a wrestling gym where Irv­ing works out and an office where he writes the old-fash­ioned way–with pen and paper–by win­dows look­ing out onto the forest­ed hills of south­ern Ver­mont. “I can’t imag­ine being alive and not writ­ing, not cre­at­ing, not being the archi­tect of a sto­ry,” says Irv­ing near the end of the film. “I do suf­fer, I sup­pose, from the delu­sion that I will be able to write some­thing until I die. That’s my inten­tion, my hope.”

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

John Irv­ing: The Road Ahead for Aspir­ing Nov­el­ists

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