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A report on john irvings novel a prayer for owen meany

I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice--not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother's death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.

Now I have to admit to not keeping up with John Irving's career, the last thing I read was Garp, but it seems to me that this is where I left him twenty years ago.

All of the faux Christian elements are back--virgin births, saintly mothers, neutered heroes, etc. The narrative voice is similar; the narrator is the weakest character.

BOOK REPORTS FOR ADULTS: A Prayer for Owen Meany

The politics is still lightly leftish. Irving set out to be his generation's Dickens, but would appear to be turning into it's Vonnegut, endlessly rewriting the same novel under the mistaken impression that he is conveying profound truths, when in fact he is offering up mild amusements.

The specific focus of this book is the type of religious manifestation or miracle that would be necessary to make someone believe in God. Irving quotes Frederick Buechner: Not the least of my problems is that I can hardly even imagine what kind of an experience a genuine, self-authenticating religious experience would be.

Without somehow destroying me in the process, how could God reveal himself in a way that would leave no room for doubt? If there were no room for doubt, there would be no room for me.

He has several visions and dreams which convince him that he is predestined to save a flock of Vietnamese children. The book wends along for some 500 pages to this inevitable conclusion, with myriad stops for Irving's confused political ravings and introduction of bizarre but pointless supporting characters.

  1. But he had some conditions.
  2. And, as a former wrestler who is bored to tears by basketball, I thought. It is also a story about religion and finding God, an idea so incomprehensible and absurd to us that we can not comment.
  3. And the reason is this. It's always a little harsh-sounding—never soft.

It is a mark of the author's ability to please his audience and the inherent drama in the fate of Meany that we are swept along, reasonably willingly, to this conclusion. It is the essence of his weakness that we finish the book thinking, not about what it all meant, but that, thanks to a few well-handled set pieces, it would make a decent slapstick comedy for the movies. For when we step back from the tale for just a moment, we quickly see that the whole thing is a triumph of form over substance.

Irving is fascinated by the trappings and structures of Christianity it occured to me, as I skipped to Owen's speeches, that putting his words in block letters recalled the Red Letter Bibles, which put Christ's words in redbut he apparently has no interest in the import of Christian beliefs, nor any understanding of faith. The Gospels are vibrant documents today, not because of the arc of the story they tell, but because of the message of brotherly love and human redemption that Christ brought with him.


Irving preaches little more than that the Vietnam War was, and America is, a mess. It's not exactly analogous to The Sermon on the Mount. As to his obsession with miracles, the whole thing strikes me as utterly obtuse. The future that Meany foresaw for himself came to pass, so Wheelwright believes in God? Bill Clinton knew he'd be President one day, has his convinced anyone of the existence of a divine being?

When Frederick Buechner wrote the passage that is quoted above, could he not see that his existence and his ability to convey his thoughts are a miracle entire? He and Irving really seem to be looking for magic tricks, not for miracles, because the miracle is all around them. Meanwhile, Owen Meany continually acts in the book so as to conform with his visions. He seems to have abdicated that which makes us human, free will.

If Irving's understanding of Christianity is really this meager, it's hard to see how he could ever have much of value to convey to us.

  • It is also a story about religion and finding God, an idea so incomprehensible and absurd to us that we can not comment;
  • The answer is that I would have to meet someone like Owen Meany;
  • For when we step back from the tale for just a moment, we quickly see that the whole thing is a triumph of form over substance;
  • Prescott, Newsweek " T he thinking behind it all seems juvenile, preppy, is much too pleased with itself;
  • From there he takes us back to the earlier years of their friendship.

What we end up with here is a reasonably amusing book, which is only a simulacrum of a story of religious belief. If you do not approach it expecting anything more than a pleasant diversion, you'll not be disappointed.

If you expect to be enlightened, look elsewhere.

Garp was different and fun that way. And the reason is this: Irving is the ultimate sandbox choreographer. Some savvy movie people took the loveable young Owen Meany character and produced the movie Simon Birch, which I adored. And something terrible happens when Owen hits a baseball.

Mind of The Wandering Monk: #0017 – Fan Mail

And guess what Owen does when he gets kicked out of prep school? I strongly recommend the movie," Simon Birch". There is a wonderful message and it is played true and it will leave you wanting to watch it again. Irving should have been so savvy.