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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

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Review: The Cider House Rules

The Cider House Rules - John Irving

Russo. King. Rash. Updike. Doctorow. Irving. I'm beginning to notice a similarity amongst east coast writers (mostly from New England) who are usually male and born in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. They like narratives. They like description. They like slow build up. And all of these likes show how much they love being wordy. I wonder how many of these authors grew up on Dickens? The more I read of these authors, the more I'm convinced that I'm not a fan of the style. The problem for me is that most of these writers write really good stories. In order to find the story, however, one has to dig through a considerable amount of wordage. It's not the wordage that bothers me (I enjoy Tolstoy after all) so much as the style of wordage: descriptive narratives do not turn me on. At all.


So now I have to decide—do I always let my personal dislike for the style taint my opinion of the book? Should I grant a little leniency to the era that brought us such great stories? Perhaps a little, but I doubt any of these authors will ever see five stars from me. (So take that you prize-winning multi-millionaires who were published before I was born!) So, wordiness aside (wordiness that includes too frequent mentions of “pubic hair,” “vuval pads,” and that unforgettable “pony's penis” *shudder*), The Cider House Rules is a good story. It had its moments of beauty. Many of the characters were interesting and memorable, though there were certainly a fair share of two-dimensional stock characters (again with the Dickens). The plot was structured well, but heavy-handed at times. I liked the story, but I would've liked a condensed version better—sacrilege, I know.

I've heard many good things about several of Irving's stories, so I'll certainly give him another go one of these days. I hope to find a similarly good story, but without so much padding. It's a long shot, but it doesn't hurt to hope.