John Irving

(John Winslow Irving)

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And I don't want to begin something, I don't want to write that first sentence until all the important connections in the novel are known to me. As if the story has already taken place, and it's my responsibility to put it in the right order to tell it to you.
And I find - I'm 63, and my capacity to be by myself and just spend time by myself hasn't diminished any. That's the necessary part of being a writer, you better like being alone. Time
Anybody can do research. The plotting of the novel, writing the ending before you write anything else, which I always do - I don't know that everybody can do that. That's the hard part.
As many times as I've seen 'The Merchant of Venice,' I always take Shylock's side. For all the hatred that guy is shown, he has a reason to hate in return. He's treated cruelly. And it's tragic that he learns to be intolerant because of what others do to him.
Good habits are worth being fanatical about.
'Great Expectations' was an important novel in my adolescence. It was very much one of those emblematic novels that made me wish I could write like that. It helped that my models as a writer were dead over a hundred years before I began to write.
Half my life is an act of revision. Life
I believe in plot, in development of character, in the effect of the passage of time, in a good story - better than something you might find in the newspaper. And I believe a novel should be as complicated and involved as you're capable of making it. Time
I believe in rules of behavior, and I'm quite interested in stories about the consequences of breaking those rules.
I believe that, in any novel of mine, the principal objective is the construction of the whole.
I believe you have constructive accidents en route through a novel only because you have mapped a clear way. If you have confidence that you have a clear direction to take, you always have confidence to explore other ways; if they prove to be mere digressions, you'll recognize that and make the necessary revisions.
I do know where I'm going and it's just a matter of finding the language to get there.
I don't begin a novel or a screenplay until I know the ending. And I don't mean only that I have to know what happens. I mean that I have to hear the actual sentences. I have to know what atmosphere the words convey.
I don't read anything electronically. I don't write electronically, either - except e-mails to my family and friends. I write in longhand. I have always written first drafts by hand, but I used to write subsequent drafts and insert pages on a typewriter. Families, Children & Parenting
I don't really set out to explore grand themes. I set out to tell a story. And one I have to be able to imagine right through.
I don't think I've had a very interesting life, and I feel that is a great liberation. That gives me great freedom as a fiction writer. Nothing that happened holds any special tyranny over me. Life ;Freedom & Liberty
I find screenplays easy to write, my novels being very visual. You see what people look like. The physical action is described.
I get up early. I like to read a little before anyone but the dog is up. I also like to read at night, not in bed but just before I go to bed.
I grew up around books - my grandmother's house, where I lived as a small child, was full of books. My father was a history teacher, and he loved the Russian novels. There were always books around. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training ;History
I grew up in a family where, through my teenage years, I was expected to go to church on Sunday. It wasn't terribly painful. I thought some of the stories were neat; I liked some of the liturgy and some of the songs. Families, Children & Parenting
I grew up without a father, who was kept a mystery to me. There was a sense of uprootedness, things being one day here and the next day not; a sense anything could happen. Then, all of a sudden, my mother met my stepfather, and her life became happier, and my life changed, my name changed. Life
I had a particular affinity for wrestling, and it did have a lot to do with being small and being combative - and being angry. And when you're small and you don't back down, you get in a lot of fights.
I had been a student in Vienna, and one of the neat little things I had found out was about that zoo. It was a good debut novel for me to have published. I was 26 or 27 when it was published. I already had a kid and would soon have a second.
I have a very poor record at multiple choice questions.
I have pretty thick skin, and I think if you're going to be in this business, if you're going to be an actor or a writer, you better have a thick skin. Business, Commerce & Finance
I lived five years in the Midwest, and I loved it. The people were so nice. The people were so open.
I never know when I finish the novel I am writing which will be the next novel out of the station.
I never wanted my kids to feel I was more interested in anything I was doing than I was in them.
I sometimes think that what I do as a writer is make a kind of colouring book, where all the lines are there, and then you put in the colour.
I suppose I try to look for those things where the world turns on you. It's every automobile accident, every accident at a party, you're having a good time until suddenly you're not. Time
I suppose I'm proudest of my novels for what's imagined in them. I think the world of my imagination is a richer and more interesting place than my personal biography.
I take people very seriously. People are all I take seriously, in fact. Therefore, I have nothing but sympathy for how people behave - and nothing but laughter to console them with. Sympathy
I think better of our behaviour as individuals than I do when we see ourselves as members of a group. It's when people start forming groups that we have to watch our backs.
I think that writers are, at best, outsiders to the society they inhabit. They have a kind of detachment, or try to have. Society
I think the sport of wrestling, which I became involved with at the age of 14... I competed until I was 34, kind of old for a contact sport. I coached the sport until I was 47. I think the discipline of wrestling has given me the discipline I have to write. Sports & Athletics
I think there is often a 'what if' proposition that gets me thinking about all my novels.
I wasn't afraid of anything until I had a kid. Then I was terrified because immediately I could imagine a hundred ways in which I could not protect him.
I write the last line, and then I write the line before that. I find myself writing backwards for a while, until I have a solid sense of how that ending sounds and feels. You have to know what your voice sounds like at the end of the story, because it tells you how to sound when you begin.
I write very quickly; I rewrite very slowly. It takes me nearly as long to rewrite a book as it does to get the first draft. I can write more quickly than I can read.
If I have any advantage, maybe, as a writer, it is that I don't think I'm very interesting. I mean, beginning a novel with the last sentence is a pretty plodding way to spend your life. Life
If you are lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it. Life ;Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
If you presume to love something, you must love the process of it much more than you love the finished product. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
If you're still wondering about details - how am I going to get these two to meet, or whatever - when you're writing, you can't pay proper attention to the sentences themselves.
I'm not a twentieth-century novelist, I'm not modern, and certainly not postmodern. I follow the form of the nineteenth-century novel; that was the century that produced the models of the form. I'm old-fashioned, a storyteller. I'm not an analyst, and I'm not an intellectual.
I'm not writing non-fiction. I don't feel anything about me as a kid was unique. Except that I had more interest in being alone and using my imagination.
It's not very interesting to establish sympathy for people who, on the surface, are instantly sympathetic. I guess I'm always attracted to people who, if their lives were headlines in a newspaper, you might not be very sympathetic about them. Sympathy
I've always been a fan of the 19th century novel, of the novel that is plotted, character-driven, and where the passage of time is almost as central to the novel as a major minor character, the passage of time and its effect on the characters in the story. Time
I've always preferred writing in longhand. I've always written first drafts in longhand.
More than a half, maybe as much as two-thirds of my life as a writer is rewriting. I wouldn't say I have a talent that's special. It strikes me that I have an unusual kind of stamina. Life
My first attraction to writing novels was the plot, that almost extinct animal. Those novels I read which made me want to be a novelist were long, always plotted, novels - not just Victorian novels, but also those of my New England ancestors: Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne.
My old coach used to say that if you were in it for the match, if you were in it for the trophies, you were in it for the wrong reasons.
No adult in my family would ever tell me anything about who my father was. I knew from an older cousin - only four years older than I am - everything, or what little I could discover about him. Families, Children & Parenting
Of all the things you choose in life, you don't get to choose what your nightmares are. You don't pick them; they pick you. Life
One of the humbling things about having written more than one novel is the sense that every time you begin, that new empty page does not know who you are. Time
Sigmund Freud was a novelist with a scientific background. He just didn't know he was a novelist. All those damn psychiatrists after him, they didn't know he was a novelist either.
So, I don't work in terms of real time. I don't work in a timely fashion. Time ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
Sometimes that's a year, sometimes it's 18 months, where all I'm doing is taking notes. I'm reconstructing the story from the back to the front so that I know where the front is.
The building of the architecture of a novel - the craft of it - is something I never tire of.
'The Fourth Hand' was a novel that came from twenty years of screenwriting concurrently with whatever novel I'm writing.
The principal event of my childhood was that no adult in my family would tell me who my father was. Families, Children & Parenting
There are few things as seemingly untouched by the real world as a child asleep.
There's a lot of ignorance about how long it takes to write a novel. There's a lot of ignorance about how long a novel is in your head before you start to write it.
There's no reason you should write any novel quickly.
There's no reason you shouldn't, as a writer, not be aware of the necessity to revise yourself constantly.
Titles are important; I have them before I have books that belong to them. I have last chapters in my mind before I see first chapters, too. I usually begin with endings, with a sense of aftermath, of dust settling, of epilogue.
To each other, we were as normal and nice as the smell of bread. We were just a family. In a family even exaggerations make perfect sense. Families, Children & Parenting
Whatever I write, no matter how gray or dark the subject matter, it's still going to be a comic novel.
When I feel like being a director, I write a novel.
When I love a novel I've read, I want to reread it - in part, to see how it was constructed. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
When I was still in prep school - 14, 15 - I started keeping notebooks, journals. I started writing, almost like landscape drawing or life drawing. I never kept a diary, I never wrote about my day and what happened to me, but I described things. Life
With every book, you go back to school. You become a student. You become an investigative reporter. You spend a little time learning what it's like to live in someone else's shoes. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training ;Time
Writing a novel is actually searching for victims. As I write I keep looking for casualties. The stories uncover the casualties.
You can't learn everything you need to know legally. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
You don't want to be ungenerous toward people who give you prizes, but it is never the social or political message that interests me in a novel. I begin with an interest in a relationship, a situation, a character.
You don't want to dwell on your enemies, you know. I basically feel so superior to my critics for the simple reason that they haven't done what I do. Most book reviewers haven't written 11 novels. Many of them haven't written one.
You know, people think you have to be dumb to skip rope for 45 minutes. No, you have to be able to imagine something else. While you're skipping rope, you have to be able to see something else.
Your memory is a monster; you forget - it doesn't. It simply files things away. It keeps things for you, or hides things from you - and summons them to your recall with a will of its own. You think you have a memory; but it has you!
You've got to get obsessed and stay obsessed.

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