The Hotel New Hampshire, John Irving. I like this author. I actually bought these two books (see last entry) at once, just on a whim, from Amazon. I read this one quickly because I had some downtime traveling to and from a conference this week.
Like Garp, this one also has its share of weird sexual stuff. Garp had a strange conception practice, a horribly descriptive rape scene in a book-within-the-book, and hookers; this time it’s hookers (again), a less descriptive but just as horrible rape (this time within the main storyline), torture of the gay family member, and a long-running incest theme woven throughout most of the book. And I’m probably forgetting a few such things from each book. One doesn’t get the impression that Irving is including these things to shock his readers. Rather, these somewhat deviant themes flow quite naturally; in the same way that Steven King’s books seem to bare his psyche for all to read, Irving seems to have some issues. Makes for interesting reading, though.
Between these more notable portions of the book is a fun but tragic story. It’s extremely humorous at points. More than that, though, it takes a fairly direct stab at explaining life — through the narrator’s voice and through the quoted sayings of the rest of the family members. The description of the job of a good (literary) agent towards the end seemed especially apt to me; not that I have an agent, but I agree with what he explains is the end result of living without fear. Indirectly, too, Irving says a lot about life — such as the attractive notion that the best way to get beyond a forbidden desire is to overindulge in it.
Like Garp, I had to plow through the very end, but not as much this time. And the fact that the bear-in-a-hotel theme is in both books makes me think I picked two good ones to read in sequence.