“Undigested Psychodrama”

Over at Slate, April Bernard doesn’t spare the latest John Irving:

Incest, mutilation, orphans, wrestling, prose only a mother could love–yes, it’s another John Irving novel. And Until I Find You–full of the author’s characteristic storytelling drive, macabre imagination, and lumpy sentences–arrives with an added frisson: the pre-publication announcement of its autobiographical roots. Jack, the hero, is sexually handled and molested by older girls and women by the age of 10; he longs for a father who left before he was born; he joins the wrestling team at a New England prep school; his eventual fame is compromised by a sense of vacancy and abandonment and a search for sexual and personal security that eludes him. These basics will be familiar to readers of Irving’s earlier novels, so it is not surprising–though it is clearly meant to be titillating–to learn they are autobiographical in origin. In fact, one suspects that the PR release of this “confession” (and the news that, while he was writing the book, Irving did at last find out who his father was) is designed to forestall the criticism such a dreadful, though clearly heartfelt, mess like this deserves.