Advice to Aspiring Novelists: Don’t Shoot Yourself
John Irving is the author of twelve books, including “The World According to Garp,” “A Prayer For Owen Meany,” and most recently, “Last Night on Twisted River.” Over his career he has won a National Book Award, an Academy Award for his adaptation of “The Cider House Rules,” and many other honors, and has been translated into over thirty languages. A former competitive wrestler, he splits his time between Vermont and Montreal.
Question: What are your thoughts on the future of the book?
John Irving: If I were twenty-seven and trying to publish my first novel today, I might be tempted to shoot myself. But I'm sixty-seven and I have an audience so I'm not especially worried about my future in the book business. But I think it's much harder to be a young writer, a writer starting out today than it was when I started out, when my first novel, Setting Free The Bears, was published back in the late sixties. Here was a novel that wasn't even set in this country, it was about a couple of Austrian students and it had a historical section which was easily half the length of the novel about the Nazi and then Soviet occupation of Vienna, not a very American subject. I remember years later asking the guy who published that first novel if he would publish that novel if it came across his desk today, this was back in the nineties, and my old friend and editor and publisher, what I saw was, he hesitated too long. You know? He waited. He thought, "Oh, God, how do I answer this one?" And then he said, "Well, of course I would publish it today." And I said, "No, you wouldn't. I saw the hesitation." And he laughed and said, "No, of course, I wouldn't." Very telling. And I think it's a lot tougher to be a first [time] novelist, to be an unknown novelist today than it was for me and so I worry about what's going to happen with those good, younger writers. But I don't think the book is in any particular peril, I think the book is going to survive.
Recorded on: October 30, 2009
After the publication of the "World According to Garp" and numerous other bestsellers, John Irving does not really have to worry about his career. But, for those looking to break into the book-writing business today, Irving is far from envious.
Going from a solitary teenage protester in front of the Swedish parliament to a global icon in little more than a year certainly merits the distinction.
- Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate change activist, has been named Time's Person of the Year.
- The award is given to "the person or persons who most affected the news and our lives, for good or ill, and embodied what was important about the year, for better or for worse."
- Considering the magnitude of directly inspired protest movements and real-world impacts she has had, the award seems to be merited, although not everybody is pleased about this.
Just hearing two languages helps babies develop cognitive skills before they even speak. Here's how - and how you can help them develop those skills.
A new study shows that babies raised in bilingual environments develop core cognitive skills like decision-making and problem-solving -- before they even speak.
The Jerezo crater — where Mars 2020 is set to land — could be a good place to find signs of past life on Mars.
- The Jerezo crater is likely home to hydrated silica, a material which on Earth is especially good at preserving signs of life.
- Mars 2020 is set to land on the planet crater in February 2021. NASA's Curiosity rover is currently the only rover operating on Mars.
- The discovery of past life on Mars would be revolutionary, at least in science and philosophy.