I never put any walls around my reading. True, I've always had my favorite genres, but I never stop exploring outside my comfort zone. In the early-to-mid eighties I was enamored of horror fiction and I read as much of it as I could find. I also discovered writers like Bill Pronzini and Herbert Lieberman. I still read Science Fiction. And I delved into the world of literature.

No one impressed me more than John Irving. I jumped onboard his work with The World According To Garp and have been a fan ever since. I read The Cider House Rules in the same year I read King's It. Both novels made indelible impressions upon me, but I felt the Irving was the better book.

John Irving had a run of four books which I feel represent him at his very finest. The World According To Garp, The Hotel New Hampshire, The Cider House Rules, and A Prayer For Owen Meany. I hate to say it, but I never felt any of the later books had the emotional and intellectual impact as these four. A Son of the Circus and Last Night in Twisted River come close. I don't mean to suggest that the rest of them are bad books. Irving is considered to be among the finest novelists of all time and his writing is always exquisite. It's just that the four I cite above represent what I consider to be his most profoundly rewarding books.

Irving is now seventy-nine years old. It's safe to say the majority of his work is behind him. I understand he has completed another novel, and rumor has it that the book is a ghost story. The thought makes me excited.

As I wait for the next John Irving publishing event I went back and read one I passed by. It's a nonfiction book called My Movie Business. It's part memoir and part look at the author's struggles to get his fiction made into films.

My Movie Business is a slight book, and one I might not recommend to casual John Irving readers. Much if it concerns the adaptation of The Cider House Rules.

Irving writes about his grandfather, a physician who was a partial inspiration for Wilbur Larch, from The Cider House Rules. He discusses the history of the legalities of abortion, which is a central issue in the novel.

John Irving wrote the initial screenplay for The Cider House Rules, and he had final script, casting, and director approval. That's rare for a writer. Usually they sell the rights, hope for the best and receive the worst. The gestation of the novel to the screen went through many changes of scripts, actors, and directors. It's fascinating to hear first-hand accounts of the process.

My Movie Business works best as a primer for how to deliver a novel to the movie industry. The pratfalls, the compromises, the endless headaches, and if one is fortunate, the satisfaction.

People complain when a book is changed when it is made into a movie. Changes are as inevitable as they are necessary. Look at the film of The World According To Garp. Numerous changes were made to the story, but the essence of the novel remains true. It's a very good film. The makers of The Hotel New Hampshire attempted to include every detail of the book. While there are interesting things about it, the film was a critical and financial disaster.

John Irving had more misadventures in the screen trade after My Movie Business was published. A Prayer For Owen Meany was gutted and Irving himself demanded the title be changed to Simon Birch. A Widow For One Year was also re-titled and released as The Door in the Floor. To date I have not seen it, but critics were mostly kind to the movie.

Irving's film experiences haven't been so bad. The Cider House Rules is excellent and the best of the bunch. The rest vary in degrees of success, but I found something to enjoy in all of them. I even found Simon Birch to be mildly amusing. With luck we will see more in the future.

Written by Mark Sieber

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