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John Irving Biography

(1942– ), Setting Free the Bears, The Water-Method Man, The 158-Pound Marriage

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American novelist, born in Exeter, New Hampshire, educated at the universities of Pittsburgh, Vienna, New Hampshire, and Iowa. Irving's first novel, Setting Free the Bears (1969), was followed by The Water-Method Man (1972) and The 158-Pound Marriage (1974), but it was his fourth novel, The World According to Garp (1978), which established both his considerable critical reputation and his commercial success. The novel, with its oblique self-referentiality and intellectual subversiveness, was quickly appropriated for the world of fictional post-modernism, and later novels such as Hotel New Hampshire (1981) and The Cider House Rules (1985) serve to confirm Irving's place alongside other American ‘post-modernists’ such as John Barth, Donald Barthelme, William H. Gass, and Thomas Pynchon. Irving has a prodigious gift for inventive, comic narrative but his novel A Prayer for Owen Meany (1989), which many critics consider his best, with its serio-comic tale of the consequences of an accident at a ‘Little League’ baseball game, is evidence of a more profound register in his fiction. Later works include Trying to Save Piggy Sneed (1993; stories and essays), A Son of the Circus (1994; a novel), and The Imaginary Girlfriend (1996; a memoir).

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