Coincidentally, on the day I finished reading this ludicrously bloated novel, an article appeared in a newspaper’s books section lamenting the demise of the old-fashioned editor in publishing, and arguing that first-time novelists suffer as a result. Irving’s latest suggests that big-name authors are harmed too: by the presumed impossibility of telling them a book is obese and/or misconceived.
The protagonist, Jack Burns, grows up in Toronto, the son of two Scots – his father William a student in Edinburgh and church organist, his mother Alice a tattooist from Leith. When William got Alice pregnant, his parents sent him to Canada, where she followed him. According to Alice, William