• Birth—March 2, 1942
• Where—Exeter, New Hampshire, USA
• Education—B.A., University of New Hampshire; M.F.A., Iowa Writers' Workshop
• Awards—American Book Award (Garp); Academy Award; Best Screenplay (Cider House)
• Currently—lives in Vermont
John Irving is an American novelist and Academy Award-winning screenwriter.
Irving achieved critical and popular acclaim in 1978 after the international success of The World According to Garp in 1978. A number of of his novels, such as The Cider House Rules (1985), A Prayer for Owen Meany (1989), and A Widow for One Year (1998), have been bestsellers. He won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 1999 for his script The Cider House Rules.
Early years and career
Irving was born John Wallace Blunt, Jr. in Exeter, New Hampshire, the son of Helen Frances (nee Winslow) and John Wallace Blunt, Sr., a writer and executive recruiter. The couple parted during pregnancy, and Irving grew as the stepson of a Phillips Exeter Academy faculty member, Colin Franklin Newell Irving (as well as the nephew of another faculty member, H. Hamilton "Hammy" Bissell). Irving attended Phillips Exeter and participated in school wrestling program, both as a student athlete and as assistant coach. Wrestling features prominently in his books, stories, and life.
Irving's biological father, a World War II pilot, was shot down over Burma in 1943, although he survived. Irving learned of his father's heroism only in 1981 and incorporated the incident into The Cider House Rules. He never met has father, however, even though on occasion Blunt attended his son's wrestling competitions.
Irving's published his first novel, Setting Free the Bears (1968) when he was only 26. The book was reasonably well reviewed but failed to gain a large readership. In the late 1960s, he studied with Kurt Vonnegut at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. His second and third novels, The Water-Method Man (1972) and The 158-Pound Marriage (1974), were similarly received. In 1975, Irving accepted a position as assistant professor of English at Mount Holyoke College.
World According to Garp
Frustrated at the lack of promotion his novels were receiving from Random House, his first publisher, Irving moved to Dutton. Dutton made a strong commitment to his new novel—The World According to Garp (1978), and the book became an international bestseller and cultural phenomenon. It was a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction in 1979 but won the award the following year when the paperback edition was issued.
The film version of Garp came out in 1982 with Robin Williams in the title role and Glenn Close as his mother; it garnered several Academy Award nominations, including nominations for Close and John Lithgow. Irving makes a brief cameo in the film as an official in one of Garp's high school wrestling matches.
Garp transformed Irving from an obscure, academic literary writer to a household name, and his subsequent books were bestsellers. The next was The Hotel New Hampshire (1981), which sold well despite mixed reviews from critics. It, too, was adapted to film, starring Jodie Foster, Rob Lowe, and Beau Bridges. Irving also received the 1981 O. Henry Award for "Interior Space," a short story published in Fiction magazine in 1980.
In 1985, Irving published The Cider House Rules. An epic set in a Maine orphanage, the novel's central topic is abortion. Many drew parallels between the novel and Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist (1838). It took Irving nearly 10 years to develop the screenplay for Cider House, and the film—starring Michael Caine, Tobey Maguire, and Charlize Theron—was released in 1998. It was nominated for several Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and earned Irving an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
In 1989, four years after publishing Cider House, Irving came out with A Prayer for Owen Meany, also set in a New England boarding school (and Toronto). The novel was influenced by Gunter Grass's 1959 The Tin Drum, and contains allusions to Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter and works of Dickens. Owen Meany was Irving's best selling book since Garp and, today, remains on many high school reading lists.
That book, too, was later adapted to film: the 1998 Simon Birch. Irving insisted that the title and character names be changed because the screenplay was "markedly different" from the novel. He is on record, however, as having enjoyed the film.
In addition to his novels, he has also published nonfiction: The Imaginary Girlfriend (1995), a short memoir focusing on writing and wrestling; Trying to Save Piggy Sneed (1996), a collection of his writings, which includes a brief memoir and short stories; and My Movie Business (1999), an account of the protracted process of bringing The Cider House Rules to the big screen,
In 2004 he published a children's picture book, A Sound Like Someone Trying Not to Make a Sound, illustrated by Tatjana Hauptmann. It had originally been included in his 1998 novel A Widow for One Year.
Since the publication of Garp, which made him independently wealthy, Irving has been able to concentrate solely on fiction writing as a vocation, sporadically accepting short-term teaching positions —including one at his alma mater, the Iowa Writers' Workshop—and serving as an assistant coach on his sons' high school wrestling teams. (Irving was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1992 as an "Outstanding American.")
Irving's four most highly regarded novels—The World According to Garp, The Cider House Rules, A Prayer for Owen Meany, and the 1998 A Widow for One Year—have been published in Modern Library editions. In 2004, a portion of A Widow for One Year was adapted into The Door in the Floor, starring Jeff Bridges and Kim Basinger.
On June 28, 2005, the New York Times published an article revealing that Until I Find You (2005) contains two elements about his personal life that he had never before discussed publicly: his sexual abuse at age 11 by an older woman, and the recent entrance in his life of his biological father's family.
1968 - Setting Free the Bears
1972 - The Water-Method Man
1974 - The 158-Pound Marriage
1978 - The World According to Garp
1981 - The Hotel New Hampshire
1985 - The Cider House Rules
1989 - A Prayer for Owen Meany
1994 - A Son of the Circus
1995 - The Imaginary Girlfriend (non-fiction)
1996 - Trying to Save Piggy Sneed (collection)
1998 - A Widow for One Year
1999 - My Movie Business (non-fiction)
1999 - The Cider House Rules: A Screenplay
2001 - The Fourth Hand
2004 - A Sound Like Someone Trying Not to Make a Sound (Children's book)
2005 - Until I Find You
2009 - Last Night in Twisted River
2012 - In One Person
2015- Avenue of Mysteries
(Author bio adapted from Wikipedia. Retrieved 10/12/2015.)
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