Review The last chairlift – John Irving
Not a big fan of Irving, I had to have this book. Reason was the promise he had used Aspen as his background for this novel. ‘The last chairlift’ was quite disappointing, when you think he takes you back to Aspen. Sure, he mentioned the Jerome, Explore, Isis and some streets in Aspen, but it’s obvious his knowledge comes directly from the Aspen historical Society. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but at times I wondered if he had actually ever been to Aspen. Yes, he has.
The story contains of much, much more than ghosts in and from Aspen. In my humble opinion, a little too much. Irving seems to have wanted to tackle every taboo he could ever think of, and then some. Again, nothing wrong with wanting to address some issues, but enough is enough. How many times can you mention male and female body parts and what pleasure you can gain from using them. As a European I’m quite used to our fascination with sex and the need to be as open about it as possible.
But after pages and pages reading about bodily functions, homosexuals, lesbians, little people, disabled people, colored people, transgenders, I was so ready to give this book a miss. Enough already. Don’t some authors (and filmmakers) realize that the more you want to bring taboos into the open, the more you set them apart as something ‘freakish, something not completely normal’? ‘Cause when you would be convinced that any people and their actions, are the most ‘normal’ in the world (which most of them are of course) you would not even think of putting them into the spotlights. ‘Look how hip (and courageous) I am by writing about this, how non-racist I am, how I welcome everybody slightly different than many of us.’
Adam is the son of a, non-married, lesbian mother. His niece, and his best friend, is lesbian and gets a relationship with a non-speaking lady. ‘Mute’, she finds her way through life miming her thoughts and needs. Adam’s mother finds love with a female co-worker, and simultaneously with a little man who turns out to be transgender. Hopping from one bed to the other and back, she teaches Adam to be openminded about love, sex and relationships. That she also shares her son’s bed is part of this open-mindedness. The author really wanted to crash boundaries. Nobody was going to tell him he held something back, or forgot some ‘iffy issue’. Again, too much. Especially since he feels the need to go into detail, way too much detail.
When I was halfway through I seriously considered putting this book aside. As a hardcover with close to 900 pages, was I willing to spend any more time on this? I’m glad I did. The second half of the book is way better than the first. It seems like the author finally gets to the storyline and leaves the bits of infantile pieces about pee and poop behind. Now the story unfolds and gets interesting. We get to be more intimate with the minds of the characters instead of their physicalities. The interaction between the characters is interesting. I like psychology and, admittedly, John Irving can definitely write. He has succeeded in putting all the different storylines together at the end.
A bit late in the story, but happy I finally got to enjoy the book, I was nontheless glad I finished it. John Irving is a Canadian/American writer and has many fans all over the world. His extreme ways of introducing his world in his work is not quite my cup of tea. Though I have to admit I loved his book ‘Cedar House rules’. A script writer as well as a novelist, his work is appreciated by many. He has won several awards and his books have been translated in almost every language. ‘The last chairlift’ is his 15th novel.