Thursday, October 27, 2011

Two Of A Kind

Nearly every man I know, all the committed readers anyway, loves John Irving. Irving writes about New England in general and my home place in particular so I figured I'd love him, right? I love the movie of World According to Garp, it seems like the sort of thing that's similar to the book.

I haven't read the entire Irving canon but I've read a lot of it. Occasionally there's something I like. I'll always have an affection for Garp. Widow For One Year was just the right amount of Irving at one go. I'm sure there was another one in there that was fine, just fine, but clearly I've blocked it out. Owen Meany? The one everyone loves? It was like a number out of A Chorus Line, I felt nothing. And Cider House Rules? That is 600 pages of my life I will never get back (not to mention the fact that I couldn't stop myself from watching the movie). How do you take three things I love - reading, reproductive rights, and New England - and stir them into a sludge that makes me regret spending the time? I don't know but John Irving does it.

Yet? I keep reading. I didn't stop after the first or the second or even the 4th Irving book. Every time someone opines about his genius I don't think, "Well, different strokes." I think, "Huh. Why am I not getting it? I must not have read them right."

Enter Quentin Tarantino, celebrated quirky filmmaker of my generation. Ish. I think he's my generation or at least counted as such. I love one of his films, Reservoir Dogs. Honestly, I didn't know I loved it until my second viewing. A co-worker, a Harvey Keitel fan, found out that the film was playing on the big screen and there was an interview with Keitel afterward and we should all go. I was the only one of us who showed up.  No regrets. On the big screen it's an entirely different movie. Suddenly that one scene is all about the guy's ear and because it has that's focus it's exactly the right length and the build up is exquisite and when it finally all goes bad the viewer goes sliding down with it. Knowing what I know after that viewing I could watch it again and again.

The rest, what I've seen of them, leave me cold. Still, I put Inglorious Basterds in my Netflix queue. I watched it creep slowly up to the top. When it got there I thought for a minute about deleting it before it was shipped but I didn't. Even though I'd caught the beginning of it on TV one afternoon and it had put me to sleep I let them send it, I opened the envelope, I put it in the player, pressed play, and spent the next [very large number]  of frames committed to it. If you're going to make me read subtitles I'm going to need more. If you're going to make me watch "Funny" Brad Pitt I'm going to need some Shirtless Brad Pitt to balance it. If you're going to fill up half your movie with Diane Kruger you're going to have to be sufficiently interesting to make me forget my raging jealousy that she sleeps with Pacey Witter. As far as I'm concerned none of these conditions was met. I wasn't surprised. I knew it was coming but here I spent a perfectly usable weeknight watching it because I thought, as a lover of films, it was somehow important that I understand what everyone was talking about when they showered affectionate digital drool all over the movie. I didn't. I could have gone my whole life without watching it and I could go the rest of my life without seeing another Tarantino movie. He won't care and nobody else will either. Same goes for Irving. Their success or well being or self worth are not dependent on me. (Cue meeting my soulmate, the world's leading Tarantino expert with a Irving fetish.)

I don't like Quentin Tarantino and that's OK. I don't like John Irving and that, also, is OK.

Someone please remind me of that so we avoid these sorts of disappointments in the future.


  1. 1. Man? Check. 2. Committed Reader? Check. 3. Loves John Irving? Eh, no.

    I read "Garp" and liked it okay. Never bothered with anything else. Just not that interested and certainly pushed away further by the folks I know who adore him and whose opinions on other things I find a bit lacking.

    As far as Tarantino goes, I always want to hate him (because he's such a snivelly snotty little self-important twerp) and then end up liking the movies in spite of myself. "Inglourious Basterds", however, was an exception. Really really over-rated. Probably his worst film and, naturally, his most lauded.

  2. It doesn't hurt my feelings that you don't like Irving. Not at all. Who am I to go forcing anything down anyone's throat?
    I was turned onto him by a history professor I had a crush on.
    That you all is what I love about you. I'm glad you gave him a fair shot. But if it doesn't move you... also glad you don't waste your time.
    I hope you won't mind if I continue to love him and express my opinions though. If you did mind... that might smart a bit. Wink. xo

  3. I don't like Quentin Tarantino either, but I do enjoy John Irving's books. Maybe because I read them when they first came out and they lose something in translation in this current day and age?