Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Prayer for Owen Meany

We had a record-breaking 15 in attendance at Tuesdays book club meeting. We needed four tables to accommodate everyone. Welcome to Sondra and Darlene! Please note that the list of books we will read for the remainder of this year appears in a column on the left side of this page.

Luci asked me how we select books. All the books are titles that have been suggested by members of the group. We can begin to compile a list of suggestions for 2011 at any time, though we do need to submit our completed list to library administration in October. They require two months prior notice for the Calendar of Events, but I like to have the whole list since we can harvest from book donations if we know in advance what we will be reading.

It would be impossible to remember the discussion yesterday. I do want to add that a later edition had a afterword from the author in which he said: As for Vietnam and all the rest, I take Johnny Wheelright's view of the 1960's - "precious little irony." And I take Owen Meany's view of the television; it seems even truer now. Much of the self-seriousness and lunacy is in Owen's words, "MADE FOR TELEVISION." We felt that Irving gave John Wheelright his own name to punctuate that these were also his opinions.

We didn't enjoy reading Owen's dialogue in all caps but agree that it certainly did get the point across that his voice was different. Cindy had listened to it and said that the reader used a high pinched voice to deliver the strangeness of Owen's voice. The book is extremely layered, both as a Christ story and and as a vehicle for Irving's political opinions. Irving admitted in the afterword to not being a religious man, yet Owen's story is strongly religious. Cheryl has read this book five times and suggested that Irving intended John Wheelright to represent John the Baptist. John existed in Owen's shadow and felt he was nothing in his absence. John was still a virgin, eschewing women and taking on a form of monastic life, even going to Katherine Keeling's island (Patmos?).

Madelon said that she read Irving doesn't start to write a book until he knows what the last line will be. We thought it was remarkable technique and wondered how he developed this story from "O God - please give him back! I shall keep asking you." We felt Irving's device to deliver his political views was very effective, using his contemporary life in 1987 Toronto, to parallel Viet Nam to the Reagan administration in an effort to demonstrate how "above the law" they all behaved. Many of us remember that era and felt the author's rage.

We all agreed that the first 300 pages were demanding and hard to get through and that the second half of the book is where the action is. The four that had given up on the book said that they would have to reconsider and maybe finish it after all.

In spite of the large attendance, the discussion was animated, respectful and flowed well. Eight people went to lunch at Pinocchio's afterward, which is what the size of a normal book club meeting usually is! I think the book itself drew a lot of people. It was a re-read for many of us, a book we remembered fondly. Let's see how The Chosen fares next month~