Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Water-Method Man

This is the ninth John Irving novel I've read over the past decade or so. 
The Water-Method Man is Irving's second book, published way back when I was a mere nine-year old [1972]. Am I really that old? 

Is he
Tthough it is such an ancient thing it reads as if it could have come out this year, well, except for the lack of technology in it. Characters still actually speak on landline phones and write letters by hand! And use typewriters!
But for the most part, relationships are still as screwy today as they were back then -- and boy, are they ever screwy in here! In my experience, this seems to be Irving's forte -- illuminating via humor and farce, the unhumorous struggles in human relationships.
The protagonist, Bogus Trumper, has a birth defect in his urinary tract and is prescribed a diet of copious amounts of water to try and remedy the problem. Hence, the title. Later on he will have to resort to surgical measures to fix this issue with his [whatever…] penile canal? But in the meantime he is hydrating himself as much as he can, and dealing with a seemingly never-ending line of failures in his life -- mostly in his relationships with women. As a movie-review about him will one day report, he fails "to communicate with women beyond a self-satisfying level..." It's a hilarious story, and yet, serious as hell. Buried deep are feelings that he has failed to impress his father, who alienates Bogus after he [Bogus] impregnates out-of-wedlock the first real love of his life. 

"You're on your own now, boy!" [My paraphrase].
And he is. 

Bogus's life's work revolves around his translation of an old Norse myth -- it becomes his Ph.D thesis. And a friend of his begins to make a documentary-style movie of Bogus's life, entitled * * * *ing-Up
I hesitate to spell out the actual title because I know so many young children read my blog!
Interestingly enough, it is only when Bogus himself views the film in a theater, years later, that he is propelled onward to make several necessary changes that finally result in a measure of peace and stability.
He gets the penis surgery.
He discovers that he is the father of a child he knew nothing about, spawn of a subsequent relationship that ultimately seems to be more forgiving of his frailties, and resilient regarding his wrongdoings.
I say "seems" -- because in the end we can only hope for him, on the last page. Irving excels, I think, in showing us that love is grand, but it is also mundane. And you gain the former when you accept the latter. Often we speak of great first lines in a book, but in this case I will mention a great last line:  

Mindful of his scars, his old harpoons and things, Bogus Trumper smiled cautiously at all the good flesh around him.
To extrapolate on my already bastardized thoughts from Trumper's ever-distanced father, "You're NOT on your own now, boy!" For God's sake -- don't screw this up again!

I rate The Water Method-Man 3.5 Fully Gushing Urinary Tracts out of a Possible 5 Overflowing Toilets.

1 comment:

Stefanie said...

For some reason I thought you had read all of Irving to date. Do you have any others left unread? Do you think his older books tend to be better than his newer ones or just different? Curious because his older books are more appealing to me and I haven't felt compelled to read any recent ones and I am not sure why.