last night in twisted river

Last Night In Twisted River by John Irving


I finished reading Last Night In Twisted River by John Irving late yesterday. I’ve been posting about this book on and off for the past month, and that’s because with my deadlines the only chance I get to read for pleasure is late at night.

I’ve read everything John Irving has ever written. I started reading his fiction in college for a “Contemporary Fiction” class and ever since then I’ve been a fan of his work. I’ve always considered his writing style as untouchable. In other words, if I started something John Irving wrote without knowing it was written by him, I’m certain I’d be able to recognize him at once.

And Last Night In Twisted River was no exception. This book is John Irving at his best, from the tormented tale of Domenic the cook to the unusual circumstances that shape Daniel the writer’s entire life. The book follows Domenic and his son Daniel through the course of a lifetime, from a logging camp on the Androscoggin to a quiet house in Toronto. As in real life…and this is something I love about John Irving’s fiction…there are always certain “things” that follow us around all our lives. Even if we try to ignore these things, they catch up with us when we least expect them. In fact, there’s no place secure enough to hide from certain things. But more than that, we can’t hide from love, sorrow, unfulfilled expectations, achievements, revenge, and grave losses. And many times the only thing that keeps us going is hope…even though we may or may not be very good at hoping.

The cast of characters are as simple and as complicated as in all of Iriving’s other books, especially one character in particular: Ketchum. He’s the crusty old codger we love and hate. He’s the quirky philosopher we wonder about sometimes. And, most of all, he’s the wise one…who makes coffee with egg shells and loves to watch moose dance…that many of us wish we had in our own lives.

But if you’re looking for a quick, simple read, this might not be the book for you. This is a book that’s meant to be read slowly and taken step by step. There are sentences and paragraphs that should be read more than once in order to grasp the full meaning of each individual character. I read about Six-Pack Pam more than once several times. And I kept going back to read about Danny Angel the writer, after Daniel changes his name to Danny Angel the writer, so I could understand his tormented marriage completely.

There are sections where the book becomes political, especially when Daniel the writer starts posting news clippings on his Toronto refrigerator. But this is fiction, not real life. And the opinions and rants are coming from characters who don’t really exist, which makes the political sections more entertaining than anything else.

I could continue for days writing this review. I could write about Injun Jane, fat Carl, Ketchum, Carmella, and poor little Angelu. I could mention the charming Italian flair and the excellent food descriptions where a hint of honey is added to pizza dough to make it sweeter. But I’m going to end here by saying I can’t recommend this book enough to serious fiction readers. You have to start out slowly and build up momentum, but once Irving has you hooked, to the point where you feel you know these characters personally, you’re not going to leave until you’ve read every last word he’s written.

Last Night In Twisted River…The Androscoggin


According to my Kobo, I’m 90% finished reading LAST NIGHT IN TWISTED RIVER by John Irving. And, once again, like all Irving’s novels, I hate to see it end.

And because this was the first John Irving novel I’ve read on my Kobo e-reader, it was a new experience for me. Actually, I planned to read this particular book on purpose. I figured if I was going to get used to a new e-reader I wanted to have an old friend with which to do it.

And I don’t have any complaints at all, not with the Kobo or with LAST NIGHT IN TWISTED RIVER.

This isn’t a review of the book. I’ll do that eventually. But whenever I read certain authors I always do a little research about where the books were set. In this case, a good deal of LAST NIGHT IN TWISTEd RIVER revolved around a logging in camp along the Androscoggin River in New Hampshire. And the images of this part of the world were written so well, and with such detail, I’m going to drive there this summer when I’m in Maine again.

And I can’t recommend this book enough to other readers or authors. I’m from a school of thought that truly believes writers get better by reading well-crafted novels like LAST NIGHT IN TWISTED RIVER. In other words, don’t just read the books in the genre in which you write. Branch out and read more literary novels to see how novels are created. You may agree with some things; you may disagree with others. But you’ll walk away with knowledge you can’t find in a classroom, a crit group, or from any online source that offers writing advice.

Last Night in Twisted River, by John Irving, and Write What You Know

I’m finishing up John Irving’s Last Night in Twisted River and I’ve been dying to post the following excerpt from the book. And, just so this is clear, this not John Iriving’s personal opinion on the subject, “write what you know.” I have no idea how John Irving feels about “write what you know.” This is John Irving’s character’s opinion about “write what you know,” Danny Angel the writer.

I know I’ve heard, from teachers and crit groups, that fiction writers should always “write what you know.” Thankfully, I never paid attention to any of them. (There’s always been a lot of bad advice out there, and now more than ever the Internet has expanded this.) I’ve always believed fiction should be larger than life.

I’m not commenting on the character Danny Angel the writer’s opinion any further. I’m just blogging about it because I think a lot of new writers wonder about, “write what you know,” and when I read this I thought I’d share it. I think it sums up the concept of “write what you know” better than anything I’ve heard or read in years (smile to all the creative writing teachers out there).

This kind of question drove Danny Angel crazy, but he expected too much from journalists; most of them lacked the imagination to believe that anything credible in a novel had been “wholly imagined.” And those former journalists who later turned to writing fiction subscribed to that tiresome Hemingway dictum of writing about what you know. What bullshit was this? Novels should be about people you know? How many boring but deadeningly realistic novels can be attributed to this lame and utterly uninspired advice?

John Irving’s LAST NIGHT IN TWISTED RIVER and Reviews

I’m in the middle of reading LAST NIGHT IN TWISTED RIVER, by John Irving, and I wanted to talk about how I feel reaching the middle of the novel. I’ll leave a rare amazon review (rare for me) when I’m finished, but I wanted to discuss something I think is important when buying books nowadays.

First, I’m a John Irving fan and have been for years. I read his first novel in college for a contemporary fiction class, and I’ve read everything he’s written since then. And though I like some more than others, I’ve never been disappointed in the way he combines story with writing style. But more than that, I read his books slowly on purpose to keep them going because I don’t want them to end.

And so far, while almost exactly in the middle of LAST NIGHT IN TWISTED RIVER, I’ve been completely captured by the story and the writing. It’s classic John Irving and I don’t want it to end.

I’ll review it later on amazon, which is something I don’t like doing mainly because I think there are already enough people reviewing books. They don’t need my opinion as well. But I did want to make a point of saying that if you are thinking of purchasing this book…and if you’re a fiction writer in any genre and you haven’t read John Irving you damn well should be thinking about reading one of his books just to see how he handles certain situations, with regard to writing style and storyline…please read the reviews with caution. If I didn’t know better and I read some of the negative reviews for LAST NIGHT IN TWISTER RIVER I might not have purchased the book.

But I do know better, and I know when a book review can be taken seriously and when it can’t…good or bad. And this is an important skill to learn these days, whether you’re reading amazon reviews, goodreads reviews, or the many so-called professional review blogs on the Internet. This is one of the reasons why I love and trust Elisa Rolle’s review blog: I know she’s passionate about books and reviews with her heart. And, unfortunately, it’s also one of the reasons why I stay as far away as possible from another romance review blog without the love or the passion, which shall remain nameless. It’s an interesting concept. You can tell when the love is there and when the reviewer or blogger is truly passionate about books. Just as you can tell when the reviewer is only doing to garner attention they normally never would have received before the Internet.

Here’s an interview with Irving discussing LAST NIGHT IN TWISTED RIVER.