Too short a book for an autobiography and even shorter to qualify as a John Irving novel, “The Imaginary Girlfriend” is easily one of the most endearing books ever written by this marvelous author who has created a formidable niche for himself in the American literary landscape. Dedicated to two of his most beloved wrestling coaches and a close friend, this condensed memoir blends the bustling contact sport of wrestling with the more personal and imaginative art of Creative Writing.
A “half decent” wrestler (in his own words) on account of an inflexible athletic bent, and a more than good (as recognised by the world) author, John Irving started his academic career in a none too luminous manner. Afflicted by Dyslexia which made reading an enormous niggle, Irving overcame this hiccup to blossom into one of the most essential and celebrated authors of our time. His discomfort in academics was as prominent as his comfort on a wrestling mat. Under the able tutelage of his beloved coach Ted Seabrooke, Irving developed an incorrigible affection towards this sport. An affection that lasted for more than four decades as he served the sport in the capabilities of a competitor, referee and coach. Immersion in the gymnasium halls however did not detract from his literary aspirations as Irving went on to pen some of the most indelible works of fiction including the “The World According to Garp”, and “A Prayer For Owen Meany”.
What makes this condensed work worth reading is the boldness and candour employed by Irving. Not shying away from his own disabilities, he lays down with utter simplicity the trajectory which his life took crisscrossing between classrooms and competition venues. He also shares with the reader some invaluable lessons drilled into him by mentors of the likes of the inimitable Kurt Vonnegut. The book is an assortment of spontaneous wit and sedate wisdom. A perilous taxi ride costing $100 and involving a driver petrified of the dark (and who also turns out to be a suspected thief) is enough to have the reader in splits. Poignant and pertinent, this book by Irving is one which unlike the rest of his work will not leave the reader enervated, but instead will generate a feeling of insatiability for being over too soon!
“The Imaginary Girlfriend” – John Irving at his honest best!