On this program we’re celebrating a giant of contemporary fiction, the novelist John Irving.  Guest host Cynthia Nixon introduces readings from several of his novels, and Irving himself provides brief commentaries.

Irving is the best-selling author of such novels as The World According to Garp, The Cider House Rules,

A Prayer for Owen Meany, and A Widow for One Year.   In his remarks from the stage of Symphony Space, Irving comments that awful things happen to many of his characters, but in fact it’s the breadth of his humanity that is evident in most of his works.  His characters are often damaged, but dauntless, and he is particularly interested in the child’s point of view.

In our first reading, the chapter “The Broken Side-view Mirror,” from Avenue of Mysteries, a brother and sister living at a Mexican dump site are cared for by a tough guy and a tough dog.   Reader Yul Vazquez’s screen credits include “Captain Phillips,” “The A-Team,” “Amigo,”” American Gangster” and “War of the Worlds.”  On television he’s appeared in “Seinfeld,” “The Good Wife,” “Treme,” and “Magic City.”  He’s a founding member of the LAByrinth Theater Company.

A teenager is smitten by a librarian in an excerpt from In One Person, and in retrospect his adult self credits his nascent sexual longing–and Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations–with putting him on the road to writing for a living (although the librarian, the aptly name “Miss Frost,” tell him that writing is not a living!)  Reader Michael C. Hall is well suited to the mordant side of Irving’s work: he’s best known for the title role as the serial killer “Dexter,” and also co-starred on “Six Feet Under.”  Stage credits include “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” “Cabaret,” and “Chicago.”

In our final excerpt, from A Widow for One Year, a philandering children’s book author entertains “Unhappy Mothers,” and his grown daughter tries to puzzle out her childhood memories of him.  Reader Heather Burns played wistful Miss Rhode Island in “Miss Congeniality.”  Her other film appearances include “You’ve Got Mail,” “Two Weeks’ Notice,” and “Bewitched.”  On television she’s appeared on “Bored to Death,” “Twenty Good Years,” “Save Me,” and “The Beat,” among other shows.

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