Friday, April 1, 2011

The Cider House Rules

The Cider House Rules
by John Irving

An open letter to John Irving:

Dear John,

Please excuse my sudden interuption of your highly successful career. I realize that an author of your caliber has very little time to answer open letters addressed to himself on random blogs scattered about the internet but if I could just ask you to put down that enormous bucket of money for a second and hear me out, I think it would do you and your readers a little good.

It's odd that I feel a little like your character Wilbur Larch who, in his ever-so-gradual descent into an ether-fuelled senility begins writing to President Roosevelt (and later Truman and Eisenhower) to plead his case for the legalization of abortion. Perhaps I should have begun this letter: Dear Mamie.

Ha ha. Just a joke, John. Just a joke. I'm not senile.

Not yet.

First, I must confess that I have not read a lot of your books. This is not entirely my fault, as you might not know. I don't often come across your novels in Taiwan (you should talk to your agent and publishers about that, by the way). But I did read A Prayer For Owen Meany way back in high school and recall enjoying it quite a bit.... High school, John. That was over 20 years ago. Jeez, we're getting old, huh?

I remember that Owen Meany freaked me out. Not the book, but the character. Can't remember why, though. I have forgotten most of that book.

Anyway, I just now got through your 600 page opus, The Cider House Rules. I want you to know, John, that I didn't enjoy this book and I want to tell you why: I can see by the clothes on your back and the bushel-full of currency you have at your feet that you must be doing something right. You don't spend your days unloading stacks of Benjamins if you're doing it wrong and who am I to sit here hunched over my keyboard in the early hours of an Asian morning to tell you otherwise?

(Benjamin is apparently a slang term for an American one hundred dollar bill, John. I just looked it up, Kids, these days, huh?)

Well, since you are still reading, I can only expect you want to know. It occured to me while reading The Cider House Rules that you have trouble commencing a book. It's lucky for you that I'm not the sort of person that puts a book down, John. It took me over 250 pages of random nonesense to get even a feel of where you were going. The story meandered around with no apparent sense of direction or purpose. It got so bad that I expected you to wax intellectual about a crowd of golden daffodils at one point.

Oh, it's not like I demand predictability from a novel. If you continue down this blog, you will see that I quite enjoyed the entirely unpredictable work of Kazuo Ishiguro and who doesn't like a good Kurt Vonnegut novel, hey John? Anyway, I certainly don't want to know the plot before it happens but I do want a book to catch my imagination before I am a full third into the reading. And since you're such a verbose and pleonastic fellow who often write books in excess of 500 pages, a third of a book is a hell of an investment to make just to get interested. It makde me wonder: Did you know where this book was going when you started it? Hell, there wasn't even a damned cider house until 300 pages in!

Wait, wait! I know you are checking your watch. I know you are thinking: I've sold millions of books, many of which have been made into movies that star Michael Caine and John Lithgow, why should I listen to the critique of one guy, living in the outskirts of nowhere, writing a blog read by the bare minimum of his friends and suffering from attention deficeit disorder.

Well, you shouldn't.

But, if it's all the same to you, I still felt it necessary to let you know, personally, why I didn't enjoy your novel (or, more precisely, why it took me 250 pages to develop even the slightest interest in the development of your characters, setting and plot). That's the sort of thing that makes me not want to read your other work, which will very marginally affect your vast and more-than-adequate income which, in turn, should be infintisimally disconcerting to you.


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