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John Irving gave fans some insider-y info straight out of the Irvingverse last night at the 92nd St. Y, reading from an unfinished true story that may never see the light of day as well as the final lines of his forthcoming novel "In One Person."
Looking like a dead ringer for Martin Sheen with his silvery wave of hair, the prolific novelist seemed every bit as dramatic as an actor too -- telling tales about his college wrestling days, why his writing habits always include penning a new novel's ending first, what it's like being mistaken for the late John Updike and how he was once too hopped up on Percocet (necessitated by a pesky groin injury) to remember an interview.
But for all the self-deprecating true stories and reality regaling, fiction was naturally the focus of the evening.
"To me, a so-called true story is one that can and should be improved ... and revised," he told the Kaufmann Concert Hall's nearly packed house. "I'm not disparaging biographies and memoirs -- a lot of people lead interesting lives. I haven't."
With candid comments like that, chuckles and cheers came often from the enthusiastic audience.
One such member was former ABC News anchor Charles Gibson (the unlucky interviewer during that aforementioned painkiller-hampered sitdown), who introduced Irving as his favorite writer before gingerly taking a seat in the front row. Also in the house was Irving's pal and fellow writer Edmund White.
Though the scribe was open about all things writerly, there was one subject he wasn't comfortable with: people recording his reading.
"If you happen to be sitting next to some son of a b---- who is recording ... well, there are ways of notifying me," Irving said, gazing out over the rims of his reading glasses with a conspiratorial grin.
And with a threat like that coming from the only living writer capable of putting us in a sleeper hold, we quickly switched off our digital recorder. As for the ending of that highly anticipated 13th novel? Heck, just cause the author spoiled it doesn't mean we will.