"I want novels to begin on page one," novelist John Irving told a Lowell House audience last night. "I have a 20th century impatience."
Sipping a Molson's beer in the Lowell House Senior Common Room while a small audience of 30 students and tutors looked on, Irving criticized 19th century novels for taking too long to get started.
"Turgenev's First Love doesn't start until page 48, and that's halfway through the book," he said.
"I like the vulgarity of the 20th century," he added. "It's good for literature." Irving went on to complain of the "prudery and priggishness" which he said hampered much 19th-century literature. He added that today, the fiction printed in The New Yorker suffers from a similar "guise of good taste."
"But I do like 19th century novels," said Irving, adding that too many 20th century writers have given up on character and narrative, two qualities he admires in past writers.