A favorite writer of everyone at Post Apocalyptic Bohemia, he has provided good reads for 35 years. With bears as a central theme in many of his works, & characters that are trying to be writers, he remains a treasure to me.
John Irving is the best ally the gay community has in literary giant. The acclaimed novelist & Oscar winning screenwriter (adapting his own The Cider House Rules) is the very definition of “straight, but not narrow”.
His first big hit, 1978’s The World According To Garp, featured a comic but heartfelt & humane portrait of a male-to-female transsexual; since then, he’s explored homosexuality & transgender ideas in The Hotel New Hampshire, A Son Of The Circus & several other books. This summer I read his terrific new novel- In One Person. Irving puts gayness as the center theme is the story of Billy Abbott, a bisexual hero. The smart story takes us from Billy’s upbringing through the AIDS crisis in NYC & beyond. Irving proves that despite his tough-guy writer image, his compassion for sexual minorities is real & deep.
Irving has been open about the influence of gay writers on his voice; he lists Edmund White among his inspirations. He also has a gay son. Irving: “I can’t accept that gay rights, or the rights for people who are bi, or the rights for transgender people, are as ‘hotly debated’ as they say. I think those people who can’t accept sexual identity as a civil rights issue, are moral & political dinosaurs. Their resistance to sexual tolerance is dying; those people who are sexually intolerant are dying out, they just don’t know it yet.”
I have read & own 10 of Irving’s 13 novels. My favorites: The World According To Garp, The Cider House Rules, A Prayer For Owen Meany & A Widow For One Year. But, The Hotel New Hampshire has the special place in my heart. Nearly broke, I purchased it in hardback when the man that would become my husband & I arrived in Seattle in 1981. The novel got me through a frightening time, starting a new life. The story’s catch phrase: “Keep Passing The Open Window” became my motto for the early 1980s.
Irving celebrates his 71st birthday on this very day, March 2nd.