Last Wednesday, as my train pulled into Maynooth I finished the last page of A Prayer for Owen Meany. I can’t remember taking so long to savour a novel since I read Middlesex back in 2004. It is a magnificent and unmissable book that compels you to turn the page. In Owen I found a character so hilariously sure of himself and so brimming over with dignity in such an absurd body that I laughed and cried. It is such a compliment to John Irving when I say I just wanted to hug Owen close.
In his diary, the prophet and INSTRUMENT OF GOD writes:
Watch out for people who call themselves religious; make sure you know what they mean- make sure they know what they mean!
John Updike was rumoured to have hated the rise of the genre “Literary Fiction” because he saw it as a cover for pretense. Why don’t they just call it “Books you’ll only read so girls will think you’re deep”. In Owen Meany we have serious literature with an amazing intricate plot. It is the story of Owen and John’s friendship, narrated by John. From the day he met him, Owen was the major influence in John’s life. Now as he resides in a nostalgic middle age, he recounts the journey their friendship takes.
There are twists and turns to that tale that are magnificent. But in the midst of that we learn about friendship and death and love in the way stories are meant to teach us. And we get to sit in on anger at Empire and true reflections on God. Like this:
And I suppose that was why it had been so difficult for Mr Merril to pray for Owen Meany – and why he had invited us all to offer up our silent prayers to Owen, instead of speaking out himself. And he called Mr and Mrs Meany ‘superstitious’! Look at the world, look at how many of our peerless leaders presume to tell us that they know what God wants! It’s not God who’s fucked up, it’s the screamers who say they believe in Him and who claim to pursue their ends in His holy name!
This novel is basically unadapatable for the screen. So you’ll just have to go read it. Under a tree. On a beach. On holiday. You won’t regret it.
Your Correspondent, So pregnant with meaning, he’s practically lactating