Literary Talent – John Irving – Author Biographies

It has been said that John Irving often uses the literary technique of a story within a story and he uses it masterfully. A few his novels have a character who is a writer. John Irving is considered one of the best novelists in modern literature. He is a master storyteller and comic genius of our age.

John Irving was born John Wallace Blunt, Jr., on March 2, 1942, in Exeter, New Hampshire. His father was serving as an airman stationed in the Pacific. John never did meet his father.

John’s parents were divorced when he was only two years old. When his mother married Colin Irving in 1948, Colin adopted John. His mother changed his name to John Winslow Irving. Winslow was her maiden name.

John lived with his grandmother, in a large old house, until he was six years old when his mother remarried. When he was growing up, he was a moody and aloof child and that house provided many places where he could get off by himself. He said that no adult would talk to him about his father. So, in his mind, he demonized his father.

John says that it was when he was almost 40 years old and in the process of a divorce from his first wife, that his mother gave him a packet of letters that his father had written in 1943. This is when he found out that his dad had wanted contact with him. By this time his father had already died.

John had his first novel, ‘Setting Free the Bees,’ published when he was only 26 years old. In 1972, after his second novel was published, he was appointed Writer-in-Residence at the University of Iowa. While there John received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

It was in 1976 that John moved to Massachusetts to become Assistant Professor of English at Mount Holyoke College. He served as Writer-in-Residence at the Bread Loaf Writers Conference.

It wasn’t until 1978, when ‘The World According to Garp,’ was published, that John Irving was catapulted onto the ‘Best Seller’ realm. All his books since then have been best sellers. His later works have been compared to the work of Charles Dickens.

John had been active in wrestling while he was growing up and in college. In the 1980s, he coached wresting at prep schools all while he continued his writing.

In 1999, John wrote the screenplay for his novel, ‘Cider House Rules,’ and ultimately won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Since then he has continued to adapt his works into motion pictures.

John is known for is strong opinions and is anti censorship. John says, “If you feel so strongly about what’s on television, don’t have one. If you feel so strongly about people having abortions, don’t have one. But, we are a country that likes to be punitive. We want to restrict. It is a kind of religious fervor run amok.”

In 1987, John Irving John married his literary agent, Janet Turnbull. They live in Toronto and Southern Vermont. John has two sons.

Books by John Irving:


Setting Free the Bees (1968)

The Water-Method Man (1972)

The 154-Pound Marriage (1974)

The World According to Garp (1974)

The Hotel New Hampshire (1981)

The Cider House Rules (1985)

A Prayer for Owen Meany (1988)

A Son of the Circus (1994)

A Widow for One Year (1998)

The Fourth Hand (2001)

Until I Find You (2005)

Last Night in Twisted River (2009)


3 by Irving (1980)

Three Complete Novels (1995)


Trying to Save Piggy Sneed (1993)

Picture Books:

A Sound Like Someone Trying Not to Make a Sound (2004)

Non Fiction:

The Imaginary Girlfriend: A Memoir (1996)

My Movie Business: A Memoir (1999)

Source by Elizabeth Lindsey

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