John Winslow Irving stands out as one of the finest contemporary American authors. Born in Exeter, New Hampshire in July 1942, Irving attended an Exeter prep school at which his stepfather taught history. Although he excelled at English, he was discouraged by the fact that he was dyslexic, a condition which wasn't recognized back then and so had trouble keeping up. An avid wrestler, he attended the University of New Hampshire on a wrestling scholarship. There, he met a young Southern novelist named John Yount, who encouraged him to write. "It was so simple," he remembers. "Yount was he first person to point out that anything I did except writing was going to be vaguely unsatisfying." Similarly inspired by Dicken's work, particularly A Christmas Carol, and studying under Günter Grass in Vienna, Irving began to write what would later become his first novel, Setting Free the Bears (Irving, 1968). When he returned from Austria he married, and when his first child was born at age 23, he sold his 750 cc Royal Enfield- duly noted in Bears- and continued to write.
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success of Bears, Irving wrote The Water Method Man in 1972, the story of a perpetual graduate student who can't seem to take anything to completion. Although it was criticized for lack of depth and character development, it incorporates an interesting shifting narrative and alternating time periods, which makes the book seem less traditional. Like Bears, both books contain mild autobiographical information. Fred- the implied narrator of the book- attended Exeter, studied in Vienna, and has a wrestling background.
In 1978, he published The World According to Garp, which was instantly a success and made Irving a literary hero overnight. It is the story of "TS Garp, the bastard son of Jenny Fields, a feminist leader ahead of her times. Theirs is a world of sexual extremes and even sexual assassinations. Yet the dark, violent events of the story do not undermine a comedy both ribald...
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