John Irving Falls Off His Skis in His Latest Book: The Last Chairlift
(I’m really weary of the arrogance of social media platforms and their delays in response, arbitrary censorship, and so forth. Amazon is taking its sweet time posting this review of John Irving’s newest book, The Last Chairlift. I’m posting it here because, if you’re an Irving fan as I am, you want to make an exception and stay away the the time and cost investment in this horrible book.)
This is a horrid book, not just for the formerly magnificent John Irving, but for anyone. When I like an author I make it a practice to read all of his or her works, in my case Steinbeck, Fitzgerald, Irving, as examples. But the others never had a clunker this bad. It seemed to me as if he had several books in mind and since he often takes a lot of years to produce a new one, and he’s now 81, he figured he’d encompass all the ideas in one book. The result isn’t a salad, it’s a food explosion.
Among other topics, he addresses transgenderism, diminutive people. women who soil bedding, skiing accidents of varied kinds, homosexuality, virulent anti-Catholicism, rabid progressivism and hatred of Republicans, miming, murder, ghosts, suicide, Viet Nam, wounding people to prevent military service, wrestling, novelists, divorce, and dementia. You get the idea, this makes The Hotel New Hampshire or A Prayer for Owen Meany (two of the finest pieces of modern fiction I’ve ever read) seem simple by comparison.
It is at least 200 pages (that is not a typo) too long and badly needed editing for length, his incessant repetition, and poor grammar that is not deliberate. At the conclusion, he suddenly enters a mad sprint trying desperately to tie up loose ends and citing on every page dates and locations of all the characters. The end is satisfying only to the extent that it’s the end. I felt like a Marathoner who finished an hour behind the winners but at least finished.
This is really the writer’s and publisher’s contempt and exploitation of a loyal fan base. If this were originally submitted anywhere, it wouldn’t have even received a polite rejection. As for the chairlift, if you intend to read this, be prepared to do all the heavy lifting, because the author has not.