Thursday, November 26, 2009

Exaggeration Well Done

In the area of writerly exaggeration, Daniel Baciagalupo was a born exaggerator!
-- From Chapter 5 of John Irving's, Last Night In Twisted River --
<-- I am reading a terrific book.
My last book was awesome, too [Michael Chabon]... but like, because I spend 9/10ths of my energy and time at work 8 days a week, at the end of it all, I have ZERO time to tell you about these books.

[The above sentence is my idea of an example of writerly exaggeration.]
I love to exaggerate. In my writing, talking, eating -- I just love to employ exaggeration.
I believe that John Irvng does, too. In his writing.
He exaggerates. I contend that he does.
And I am not saying that in a negative sense. He has a control -- such a command of his stories -- he can get away with many moments of exaggeration in a way that I [as a reader] would not allow for another author.
And I think that the reason for this is that when one reads Irving, one makes a friend. And this may be an audacious thing to say, but I think that maybe this is Irving's goal, in writing.
To make friends.
He certainly has made a few. And I am one.
Enough preamble. What is it that Irving loves to exaggerate, most?
I believe it is this --> feelings.

In the above citation from chapter 5, the character Daniel has enrolled [and excelled] in a course at the legendary Iowa Writer's Workshop. Our narrator [the omniscient Irving]... hovering, god-like, pronounces Daniel "a born exaggerator".
I contend that this is what Irving himself is, as regards his writing.
His technique. His style. His method.
It's exaggerative.
One need go only as far as the next page [in chapter 5] where Daniel's father laments his realization that his son will be leaving for Exeter college [an institution Irving attended]......
Danny would never forget lying in his bedroom later that night, in the Wesley Place apartment, hearing his dad cry and cry -- with Carmella crying, too, as she tried to comfort him. [p.156].
Come on!
Who would cry like that?
You would get tears [yes]...... you may cry for a bit.... [a minute.... two minutes?] but "cry and cry" as in, all night long, as suggested?
My own father cried for only about 3 or 4 minutes when I left Saskatchewan for Ontario, college-bound.

No, I maintain, it is exaggerative.
In other books by Irving, someone will be brushing out their hair in some enclosed cellar, and a guy in the upstairs bedroom is hearing it.
Or, someone is driving a car for the first time, and an observer in [again] an upper level bedroom window watches the car continually drive for what has to be half an hour. Well, where is this bedroom? On the eighteenth floor?
Again... I am not criticizing. I'm just loving it.
It is like I am in love with John Irving and he can do no wrong for me!
And it's always about FEELINGS!

As I read on in the book, Daniel is very much fashioned after the real John Irving I know.
For instance, Daniel has Kurt Vonnegut as his mentor. As did Irving.
I am ready to forgive Daniel all things. As you would, a friend.

I believe there is a very real power, in exaggeration well done.
I think Irving knows this, and does it. Succeeds at it.
In some sort of downright alchemical way that should be patented, he has made me believe him.
He makes me feel I am somewhat diminished if I end up breathing my last breath, without having read his last word.
This is friendship.
It is also -- wonderfully unrealistic.
Unrealistic, though, in a way that makes a reader realize that the most important word of those last five, is this one:



Beth said...

“One of the greatest surprises in life is to open a book expecting to meet an author, and to find instead a man...or a friend. (italics – mine)

Anonymous said...

One cannot help but LIKE not only John Irving's characters but by the same fact John Irving himself. I've read quite a few of his exaggerations and have thoroughly enjoyed each one more than the last. He's up there in my top 5 favorite writters of all time.

Stefanie said...

You exaggerate Cip? OMG, I've been taking everything you say at face value all these years! ;)