For some reason, I always mix up John Updike and John Irving. I've read books by both authors, and while both are excellent, there are profound differences. Nonetheless, when Updike's death was announced today, in my head it was John Irving that had died. I even wrote a post saying Irving had died, which may still be lurking in your Google Reader (ignore please!).
As far as I can tell, John Irving is not dead. He did, however, write of one of my favorite books of all time, A Prayer For Owen Meany, a book that is laugh-out-loud hilarious and cry-out-loud sad, heavy with political criticism and religious symbolism, full of subtleties and wit and insight. I love how it makes you think about faith and doubt. And no matter what year it is when I read it (and I probably re-read it every 5 years), there is always some scandal going on in Washington that can be substituted for the Oliver North hearings that take place in the present-day chapters of the novel. One year it was Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill. one year it was Whitewater, one year it was Clinton/Monica, etc. Same thing, different year. Sometimes I'm tempted to skip those parts and just savor the flashbacks to Owen and Johnny's life in their little town in New Hampshire in the 1950s-60s, but the political bits are key to the book and do tie in to the observances made by two young boys as they tried to find their way in their world.
"A LITTLE BREATHLESS, VERY BEAUTIFUL, MAYBE A LITTLE STUPID, MAYBE A LOT SMARTER THAN SHE SEEMED." (Owen's reference to Marilyn Monroe being just like America...).
Thank you Mr. Irving AND Mr. Updike, for your wonderful words, and peace to you both.