Thursday, August 11, 2011

Update on our Co-habitational Reading Challenge

So if you’re been following along on RR’s blog, you can see that she’s already posted some wonderful stuff about our discussions of A Prayer for Owen Meany, which we’re rereading simultaneously. We had great fun going over the hilarious Christmas pageant scene last night, which to my mind is one of the funniest passages in all of American literature. (Pages 214 to 220 in the standard paperback edition, for those of you interested.) We’ve also discussed other comical moments involving the maids at the Wheelwrights’ place as well as the diminutive authority Owen seems to wield over his parents.

As RR touched on, one thing that continues to impress about this book is the fluidity and skillfulness that Irving shows in the structuring of time. I suppose with a 617-page novel, you have lots of room to manoeuvre between the past and present, but it still isn’t easy. Irving is excellent at giving each scene a cadence and crescendo that is then counterbalanced perfectly with a sudden jump – either forwards or backwards –in the timeline. He never once waivers in his trust of the reader that he or she is capable of following along.

Like with most things I read, I do have the occasional criticism. Beyond the minor plot contrivances that RR alluded to in her post, there are times when I feel like some characters don’t always act like real people. Chief Pike’s obsession with finding the baseball that killed John’s mother seems like a bit of a strain; it was clearly a freak accident, so why treat it so fanatically like a ‘murder’? Also, Owen’s mother’s space cadet-like behaviour – the fact that she almost never leaves her house, almost never speaks, never looks out her windows, never even makes eye contact with people – isn’t really believable. Also, I wonder if the last name of Dan - the man who provides love, support and guidance to John after his mother days - is a bit too obvious: Needham.

But nitpickery aside, we’re having a real blast rereading this big, fat, funny novel from our youth. Stay tuned to our blogs over next few days for more discussion points. And if you’re reading along at home (or if you and your housemate are reading a different book simultaneously) , drop a comment below and let us know your thoughts.


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