Fodder for Fiction Birthday Bash: John Irving

by Lisa Lipkind Leibow, Author of Smart Women’s Fiction

I can barely form words to express my excitement over celebrating the birthday of one of my favorite authors of all times. John Irving is the king of quirky characters. I read The Hotel New Hampshire when I was a teen, and giggled at the stinky dog named Sorrow, marveled at the odd family, and related to the familiar New England setting. I had that sweet-but-empty feeling at the last page when I don’t want a fantastic book to end. He’s the first author I ever set out to read everything he ever wrote – just for fun, not because a teacher had assigned it. To this day, when he has something new in the works, I rush out to buy it. My favorites of the bunch are The World According to Garp, A Prayer for Owen Meany, and Cider House Rules.

In honor of John Irving, I’m sharing one of my favorite first paragraph hooks, ever! And since it deals with what happens when the boys of the St. Cloud’s Orphanage are born, I thought it fitting to celebrate the birthday of John Irving, the first author I ever read who I immediately sought out everything he ever wrote. I love his quirky characters so much!

“In the hospital of the orphanage—the boys’ division at St. Cloud’s, Maine—town nurses were in charge of naming the new babies and checking htat their little penises were healing from the obligatory circumcision. In those days (in 192_), all boys born at St. Cloud’s were circumcised because the orphanage physician had experienced some difficulty in treating uncircumcised soldiers, for this and for that, in World War I. The doctor, who was also the director of the boys’ division, was not a religious man; circumcision was not a rite with him—it was a strictly medical act, performed for hygienic reasons. His name was Wilbur larch, which, except for the scent of ether that always accompanied him, reminded one of the nurses of the tough, durable wood of the coniferous tree of that name. She hated, however, the ridiculous name of Wilber, and took offense at the silliness of combining a word like Wilbur with something as substantial as a tree.” Excerpt, The Cider House Rules by John Irving.

Help me celebrate one of my favorite author’s special day by sharing something you love about his work. Check out his official site for more information about his novels, including his latest, Last Night in Twisted River.


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3 Responses to Fodder for Fiction Birthday Bash: John Irving

  1. Mandy says:

    That sounds like a fantastic idea! Will be a little while until I get to it though, have a few more books in the line before that one.

  2. Hi, Mandy!

    After you finish Last Night in Twisted River, let me know. We can have a mini-reading group discussion, if you’d like!

    Take care, and thanks for stopping by!

  3. Mandy says:

    Happy birthday, Mr Irving!

    I did a review for The Cider House Rules earlier this year, very much enjoyed that book. Have Last Night in Twisted River to read shortly and am very much looking forward to it.

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