on this, the holiest of days, i give thanks for John Irving

today should probably a holy day. i should probably spend my time on my knees at the altar called my bookcase, light a few candles and pray. for today, is John Irving’s birthday.

people say you never forget your first love, and i think when it comes to literary love John Irving is my first. i borrowed A Prayer for Owen Meany from the Chippewa Falls library when i was 18 or 19. as i’ve said before it changed my life. until then reading had been a means to an end, a way to hide from an unhappy teenagehood. but when i read Owen Meany, it all changed. with that single book reading became something else, a passion, a way of life. i remember being incredibly sad when i had to return Owen Meany to the library. i was heartbroken that i have to give it back. sure, i went and bought it in hardcover a few weeks later. . . but it wasn’t the same. it wasn’t the book the exact book that i fell in love with. for some reason that matters to me (and still does, thus my weird relationship with libraries).

on my bulletin board of inspiration, i have three pictures of famous people: Paul Westerberg, Bob Dylan, and John Irving. that’s how high Irving is in my world of people to admire. . . and he’s not even from Minnesota. he ranks right up there as one of those people i would, never ever want to meet. what do you say to someone who changed your life? thanks?

me and Irving’s relationship has tended towards the completely dysfunctional the past few years. i grow increasingly angry with his books that don’t live up to Meany or Garp or Cider House. but like a battered reader, i keep going back for more. i keep thinking each time that maybe, maybe it will be different.

it’s hard to see your heroes fall off their game, and yet they are still your heroes. that first love never really dies, no matter what they turned into.

bless you john irving, i have no idea where i’d be without you. you changed my world. i can barely remember the books i read before Owen Meany. i can’t recall a single plot (unless of course it’s a VC Andrews and/or Sweet Valley High book, because well, we all have dirty secrets in our past). but Owen, Garp, and Homer’s stories are forever with me. i’ve read every book you’ve written. . . even Setting Free the Bears, piggy sneed and the two non-fiction books.

you have done the greatest thing any human can do, make a life better. wow. happy birthday!

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