Irving achieved critical and popular acclaim after the international success of The World According to Garp in 1978. Many of Irving's novels, including The Cider House Rules (1985), A Prayer for Owen Meany (1989), and A Widow for One Year (1998) have been bestsellers. He won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in the 72nd Academy Awards (1999) for his script of The Cider House Rules.
Five of his novels have been adapted into films (Garp, Hotel, Meany, Cider, Widow). Several of Irving's books (Garp, Meany, Widow) and short stories have been set in and around Phillips Exeter Academy in the town of Exeter, New Hampshire.
Irving in Cologne, Germany, September 14, 2010
|Born||John Wallace Blunt Jr.|
March 2, 1942
Exeter, New Hampshire, U.S.
|Notable awards||Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay |
Award for paperback general Fiction for The World According to Garp
Irving was born John Wallace Blunt, Jr. in Exeter, New Hampshire, the son of Helen Frances (née Winslow) and John Wallace Blunt, Sr., a writer and executive recruiter; but the couple separated during pregnancy. Irving grew up in Exeter with a stepfather who was a Phillips Exeter Academy faculty member. His name is Colin Franklin Newell Irving. His uncle, Hammy Bissell, was also part of the faculty. John Irving was in the Phillips Exeter wrestling program as a student athlete and as an assistant coach, and wrestling features prominently in his books, stories, and life. While a student at Exeter Irving was taught by author and Christian theologian Frederick Buechner, whom he quoted in an epigraph in A Prayer for Owen Meany.
Irving's biological father, whom he never met, had been a pilot in the Army Air Forces and, during World War II, was shot down over Burma in July 1943, but somehow survived. (The incident was incorporated into his novel The Cider House Rules.) Irving did not find out about his father's heroism until 1981, when he was almost 40 years old.
Irving's career began at the age of 26 with the publication of his first novel, Setting Free the Bears (1968). The novel was reasonably well reviewed but failed to gain a large readership. In the late 1960s, he studied with Kurt Vonnegut at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. His second and third novels, The Water-Method Man (1972) and The 158-Pound Marriage (1974), were similarly received. In 1975, Irving accepted a position as assistant professor of English at Mount Holyoke College.
Frustrated at the lack of promotion his novels were receiving from his first publisher, Random House, Irving offered his fourth novel, The World According to Garp (1978), to Dutton, which promised him stronger commitment to marketing. The novel became an international bestseller and cultural phenomenon. It was a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction in 1979 (eventually going to Tim O'Brien for Going After Cacciato) and its first paperback edition won the Award next year.[a] Garp was later made into a film directed by George Roy Hill and starring Robin Williams in the title role and Glenn Close as his mother; it garnered several Academy Award nominations, including nominations for Close and John Lithgow. Irving makes a brief cameo in the film as an official in one of Garp's high school wrestling matches.
The World According to Garp was among three books recommended to the Pulitzer Advisory Board for consideration for the 1979 Award in Fiction in the Pulitzer Jury Committee report, although the award was given to The Stories of John Cheever (1978).
Garp transformed Irving from an obscure, academic literary writer to a household name, and his subsequent books were bestsellers. The next was The Hotel New Hampshire (1981), which sold well despite mixed reviews from critics. Like Garp, the novel was quickly made into a film, this time directed by Tony Richardson and starring Jodie Foster, Rob Lowe, and Beau Bridges. "Interior Space", a short story originally published in Fiction magazine in 1980, later appeared in the 1981 O. Henry Prize Stories collection.
In 1985, Irving published The Cider House Rules. An epic set in a Maine orphanage, the novel's central topic is abortion. Many drew parallels between the novel and Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist (1838). Irving's next novel was A Prayer for Owen Meany (1989), another New England family epic about religion set in a New England boarding school and in Toronto, Ontario. The novel was influenced by The Tin Drum (1959) by Günter Grass, and the plot contains further allusions to The Scarlet Letter (1850) by Nathaniel Hawthorne and the works of Dickens. In Owen Meany, Irving for the first time examined the consequences of the Vietnam War—particularly mandatory conscription, which Irving avoided because he was a married father when of age for the draft. Owen Meany became Irving's best selling book since Garp.
Irving returned to Random House for his next book, A Son of the Circus (1995). Arguably his most complicated and difficult book, and a departure from many of the themes and location settings in his previous novels, it was dismissed by critics but became a national bestseller on the strength of Irving's reputation for fashioning literate, engrossing page-turners. Irving returned in 1998 with A Widow for One Year, which was named a New York Times Notable Book.
In 1999, after nearly 10 years in development, Irving's screenplay for The Cider House Rules was made into a film directed by Lasse Hallström, starring Michael Caine, Tobey Maguire, Charlize Theron, and Delroy Lindo. Irving also made a cameo appearance as the disapproving stationmaster. The film was nominated for several Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and earned Irving an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Soon afterward, Irving wrote My Movie Business, a memoir about his involvement in creating the film version of The Cider House Rules. After its publication in 1999, Irving appeared on the CBC Television program Hot Type to promote the book. During the interview, Irving criticized bestselling American author Tom Wolfe, saying Wolfe "can't write", and that Wolfe's writing makes Irving gag. Wolfe appeared on Hot Type later that year, calling Irving, Norman Mailer, and John Updike his "three stooges" who were panicked by his newest novel, A Man in Full (1998).
Irving's 10th book, The Fourth Hand (2001), also became a bestseller. In 2004, A Sound Like Someone Trying Not to Make a Sound, a children's picture book originally included in A Widow for One Year, was published with illustrations by Tatjana Hauptmann. Irving's 11th novel, Until I Find You, was released on July 12, 2005.
On June 28, 2005, The New York Times published an article revealing that Until I Find You (2005) contains two specifically personal elements about his life that he had never before discussed publicly: his sexual abuse at age 11 by an older woman, and the recent entrance in his life of his biological father's family.
Irving has had four novels reach number one on the bestseller list of The New York Times: The Hotel New Hampshire (September 27, 1981), which stayed number one for seven weeks, and was in the top 15 for over 27 weeks; The Cider House Rules (June 16, 1985); A Widow for One Year (June 14, 1998); and The Fourth Hand (July 29, 2001).
Since the publication of Garp made him independently wealthy, Irving has sporadically accepted short-term teaching positions (including one at his alma mater, the Iowa Writers' Workshop) and served as an assistant coach on his sons' high school wrestling teams. (Irving was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame as an "Outstanding American" in 1992.) In addition to his novels, he has also published Trying to Save Piggy Sneed (1996), a collection of his writings including a brief memoir and unpublished short fiction, My Movie Business, an account of the protracted process of bringing The Cider House Rules to the big screen, and The Imaginary Girlfriend, a short memoir focusing on writing and wrestling. In 2010, Irving revealed that he and Tod "Kip" Williams, director and writer of The Door in the Floor (2004), were co-writing a screenplay for an adaptation of A Widow for One Year (1998).
In recent years, his four most highly regarded novels, The World According to Garp, The Cider House Rules, A Prayer for Owen Meany, and A Widow for One Year, have been published in Modern Library editions. Owen Meany was adapted into the 1998 film Simon Birch (Irving required that the title and character names be changed because the screenplay's story was "markedly different" from that of the novel; Irving is on record as having enjoyed the film, however). In 2004, a portion of A Widow for One Year was adapted into The Door in the Floor, starring Jeff Bridges and Kim Basinger.
In a New York Magazine interview in 2009, Irving stated that he had begun work on a new novel, his 13th, based in part on a speech from Shakespeare's Richard II. Simon & Schuster published the novel, titled In One Person (2012), taking over from Random House. In One Person has a first-person viewpoint, Irving's first such narrative since A Prayer for Owen Meany (Irving decided to change the first-person narrative of Until I Find You to third person less than a year before publication). In One Person features a 60-year-old, bisexual protagonist named William, looking back on his life in the 1950s and '60s. The novel shares a similar theme and concern with The World According to Garp, which was Irving says, in part about "people who hate you for your sexual differences."
He won a Lambda Literary Award in 2013 in the Bisexual Fiction category for In One Person, and was also awarded the organization's Bridge Builder Award to honor him as an ally of the LGBT community.
On June 10, 2013, Irving announced his next novel, his 14th, titled Avenue of Mysteries, named after a street in Mexico City. In an interview the previous year, he had revealed the last line of the book: "Not every collision course comes as a surprise."
On December 19, 2014, Irving posted a message on the Facebook page devoted to him and his work that he had "finished 'Avenue of Mysteries.' It is a shorter novel for me, comparable in length to 'In One Person.'" Irving speculated that "if everything remains on schedule, the English-language editions should be published in fall 2015." Simon & Schuster published the book in November, 2015.
On November 3, 2015, Irving revealed that he'd been approached by HBO and Warner Brothers to reconstruct The World According to Garp as a miniseries. He described the project as being in the early stages.
According to the byline of a self-penned, February 20, 2017 essay for The Hollywood Reporter, Irving completed his teleplay for the five-part series based on The World According to Garp, and he is currently working on his fifteenth novel.
On June 28, 2017, Irving revealed in a long letter to fans on Facebook that his new novel will be, primarily, a ghost story. "...I have a history of being interested in ghosts. And here come the ghosts again. In my new novel, my fifteenth, the ghosts are more prominent than before; the novel begins and ends with them. Like A Widow for One Year, this novel is constructed as a play in three acts. I'm calling Act I 'Early Signs.' I began writing it on New Year's Eve—not a bad night to start a ghost story."
On August 1, 2017, an update about Irving's fifteenth, in-progress, novel, was posted to his Facebook page: "It's been 45 years since John Irving published The Water-Method Man. While his second novel is regarded as a purely comic tale, and John's current project is a darker contemplation of life's disruptive forces, the two novels bear some resemblance to one another. John Irving is once again experimenting with framed narratives and writing about the evolution of a writer—like Bogus Trumper, one who writes screenplays. This time, we see the main character—Adam Brewster—mature, from childhood and early adolescence, to become a writer like Garp, or Ruth Cole, or Juan Diego, as if writing were an inevitability given the fateful circumstances of his life. And, along the way, despite the darkness, there are points of humor. John's work in progress may ultimately be his funniest novel since The Water-Method Man."
In an interview with Mike Kilen for The Des Moines Register, published on October 26, 2017, Irving revealed that the title of his new novel-in-progress is Darkness As a Bride. The title comes from lines in Shakespeare's play, Measure for Measure: "If I must die, / I will encounter darkness as a bride, / and hug it in mine arms."
In July 2018, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize announced Irving would be the recipient of the 2018 Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award at its annual gala October 28, 2018, in Dayton, Ohio.
In 1964, Irving married Shyla Leary, whom he had met at Harvard in 1963 while taking a summer course in German, before traveling to Vienna, Austria with IES Abroad. They have two sons, Colin and Brendan. The couple divorced in the early 1980s. In 1987, he married Janet Turnbull, who had been his publisher at Bantam-Seal Books and is now one of his literary agents. They have a son, Everett. Irving has homes in Vermont, Toronto, and Pointe au Baril.
In 2010, Irving confirmed that he is a second cousin of Amy Bishop, a former assistant professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, who is serving a life sentence for shooting six colleagues, killing three, during a department meeting on February 12, 2010.
his parents had married six months before his birth
A Prayer for Owen Meany is the seventh novel by American writer John Irving. Published in 1989, it tells the story of John Wheelwright and his best friend Owen Meany growing up together in a small New Hampshire town during the 1950s and 1960s. According to John's narration, Owen is a remarkable boy in many ways; he believes himself to be God's instrument and sets out to fulfill the fate he has prophesied for himself.
The novel is also a homage to Günter Grass's most famous novel, The Tin Drum. Grass was a great influence for John Irving, as well as a close friend. The main characters of both novels, Owen Meany and Oskar Matzerath, share the same initials as well as some other characteristics, and their stories show some parallels.
Irving has confirmed the similarities. A Prayer for Owen Meany, however, follows an independent and separate plot.A Widow for One Year
A Widow for One Year is a 1998 novel by American writer John Irving, the ninth of his novels to be published.
The first third of the novel was adapted into the film The Door in the Floor in 2004.Charles John Irving
Charles John Irving, , (7 February 1831 – 23 February 1917) was a British civil servant in the Malay Peninsula.In One Person
In One Person is a 2012 novel by American author John Irving, his 13th since 1968. The book was published on May 8, 2012 by Simon & Schuster, and deals with the coming of age of a bisexual man and his coming to grips with his sexual identity.J. Irving Whalley
John Irving Whalley (September 14, 1902 – March 8, 1980) was a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania.Joe Bob Briggs
John Irving Bloom (born January 27, 1953), known by the stage name Joe Bob Briggs, is a syndicated American film critic, writer, and comic performer.John Bell (physician)
Sir John Irving Bell (born 1 July 1952) is a Canadian immunologist and geneticist. From 2006 to 2011, he was President of the Academy of Medical Sciences, and since 2002 has held the Regius Chair of Medicine at the University of Oxford, UK. He has been Chairman of OSCHR since 2006.John I. Taylor
John Irving Taylor (January 14, 1875 – January 26, 1938) owned the Boston Red Sox from 1904 until 1911. He was the son of General Charles H. Taylor, publisher of the Boston Globe. He purchased the team from Henry Killilea on April 19, 1904, with his father Charles serving as a minority owner. In September 1911, the Taylors sold half of the stock in the team to Jimmy McAleer and Robert B. McRoy with McAleer taking over as team president. On December 21, 1913, Joseph Lannin, Frank P. Cooper, and John R. Turner purchased McAleer and McRoy's half of the team with Lannin becoming team president. On May 15, 1914, Lannin bought out all of his partners and became sole owner of the Red Sox.
In later years Taylor lived in Dedham, Massachusetts, and died "after a brief illness" on January 26, 1938, aged 63. He is interred with his wife Daisy in Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain, MA.John Irving (basketball)
John Irving (May 24, 1953 – April 12, 2015) was an American college basketball player best known for his career at Hofstra, which lasted from 1974–75 to 1976–77. He also spent one season (1972–73) at Arizona before transferring. Irving, a 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m), 215-lb (98 kg) power forward/center, recorded 1,018 points and 1,186 rebounds during his three-year career at Hofstra. He holds career per-game averages of 13.2 points and 15.4 rebounds at the school, and is the last Hofstra player to average a double-digit number of rebounds in three consecutive seasons. He led NCAA Division I in rebounding during his sophomore year of 1974–75 with a 15.3 per-game average. Irving was a member of two NCAA Tournament teams, and after he graduated was selected in the third round (58th overall) by the Detroit Pistons in the 1977 NBA draft, although he never played in the league. Previously, he was also selected by the Phoenix Suns in the ninth round (150th overall) in 1976. He is still only one of two players in Hofstra University history to accumulate both 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds during his career (Bill Thieben is the other), and has been honored as an inductee in the school's Athletics Hall of Fame as part of the 2011 class.After college, Irving played for Manila (Philippines) and Anderlecht (Belgium), before playing three years in Israel for Elitzur Tel Aviv and Beitar Tel Aviv. He then moved to England for a year before playing for Ahrend Donar in the Netherlands.John Irving (steamship captain)
John Irving (November 24, 1854 – August or October 10, 1936) was a steamship captain in British Columbia, Canada. He began on the Fraser River at the age of 18 and would become one of the most famous and prosperous riverboat captains of the era. His father, William Irving was known as the "King of the River" and the neighborhood of Irvington in Portland, Oregon is named in honor of their family.Setting Free the Bears
Setting Free the Bears is the first novel by American author John Irving, published in 1968 by Random House.Irving studied at the Institute of European Studies in Vienna in 1963, and Bears was written between 1965 and 1967 based largely on Irving's understanding of the city and its rebellious youth of the 1960s. The original manuscript for the book was submitted as his Masters thesis at the University of Iowa's Writer's Workshop in 1967, and was later expanded and revised to its published version.Simon Birch
Simon Birch is a 1998 American comedy-drama film loosely based on A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving and directed and written for the screen by Mark Steven Johnson. The film stars Ian Michael Smith, Joseph Mazzello, Jim Carrey, Ashley Judd and Oliver Platt. It omitted much of the latter half of the novel and altered the ending.
The film does not share the book's title at Irving's request; he did not believe that his novel could successfully be made into a film. The name "Simon Birch" was suggested by him to replace that of Owen Meany. The opening credits of the film state that it was "suggested by" Irving's novel. The main plot centers on 12-year-old Joe Wenteworth and his best friend Simon Birch, who was born with dwarfism.The Cider House Rules
The Cider House Rules (1985) is a novel by American writer John Irving, a Bildungsroman, which was later adapted into a film (1999) and a stage play by Peter Parnell. The story, set in the pre- and post-World War II era, is about a young man, Homer Wells, growing up under the guidance of Dr. Wilbur Larch, an obstetrician and abortionist. The story relates his early life at Larch's orphanage in Maine and follows Homer as he eventually leaves the nest and comes of age in the world.The Cider House Rules (film)
The Cider House Rules is a 1999 American drama film directed by Lasse Hallström, based on John Irving's novel of the same name. The film had its world premiere at the 56th Venice Film Festival. The film tells of the coming-of-age of Homer Wells, who lives in a World War II-era Maine orphanage run by a doctor who performs illegal abortions.
The film won two Academy Awards: Irving won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published, while Michael Caine won his second Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, along with four other nominations at the 72nd Academy Awards. Irving documented his involvement in bringing the novel to the screen in his book, My Movie Business.The Door in the Floor
The Door in the Floor is a 2004 American comedy-drama film written and directed by Tod Williams. The screenplay is based on the first third of the 1998 novel A Widow for One Year by John Irving.The World According to Garp
The World According to Garp is John Irving's fourth novel, about a man, born out of wedlock to a feminist leader, who grows up to be a writer. Published in 1978, the book was a bestseller for several years. It was a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction in 1979, and its first paperback edition won the Award the following year.A movie adaptation of the novel starring Robin Williams was released in 1982, with a screenplay written by Steve Tesich.
BBC Radio 4's Classic Serial broadcast a three-part adaptation of the novel by Linda Marshall Griffiths in January 2014. The production was directed by Nadia Molinari and featured Miranda Richardson as Jenny, Lee Ingleby as Garp, Jonathan Keeble as Roberta and Lyndsey Marshal as Helen.On 3 November 2015, Irving revealed that he'd been approached by HBO and Warner Brothers to reconstruct The World According to Garp as a miniseries. He described the project as being in the early stages.According to the byline of a self-penned, 20 February 2017 essay for The Hollywood Reporter, Irving completed his teleplay for the five-part series based on The World According to Garp .The World According to Garp (film)
The World According to Garp is a 1982 American comedy-drama film produced and directed by George Roy Hill, written by Steve Tesich, and starring Robin Williams in the title role. It is based on the novel The World According to Garp by John Irving. For their roles, John Lithgow and Glenn Close were respectively nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role and Best Actress in a Supporting Role at the 55th Academy Awards.Until I Find You
Until I Find You (2005) is the 11th published novel by John Irving. The novel was originally written in first person and only changed 10 months before publication. After realizing that so much of the material—childhood sexual abuse and a long-lost father who eventually ends up in a mental institution—was too close to his own experiences, Irving postponed publication of the novel while he rewrote it entirely in third person.
The cover is a close-up photo/illustration of the side of a woman's breast, with a tattoo on it (as in the novel). The American publisher requested their version be a very close shot of the side of the breast, so the body part in question wouldn't be readily identifiable, and therefore would not offend readers or passersby in the bookstore. The Canadian dust jacket features a close-up that is more readily identifiable as the side of a woman's breast (and is the dust jacket Irving prefers).