John Irving Biography


Birthday: March 2, 1942 (Pisces)

Born In: Exeter, New Hampshire, United States

John Irving is the author of the best-selling ‘The World According to Garp’ and has also penned many other award-winning books including ‘A Prayer for Owen Meany’, ‘Cider House Rules’ and ‘The Fourth Hand’. As a teenager, he took up wrestling and read ‘Great Expectations’ by Charles Dickens, which apparently had a profound impact on his life and inspired much of his future writing. An alumnus of University of New Hampshire, Irving earned fame for his impeccable plots and his unconventional choice of words. He has also dabbled with screenplay for films, many of which were adaptations of his books, for which he has won accolades and honors. He has also experimented with writing memoirs and continues to write and publish novels with unconventional, quirky themes and sexually-driven characters. From a very young age, Irving suffered from dyslexia but he never let it become a setback in his life. He never curbed his passion for reading and always had the thirst to learn more about the world around him. He doused himself in literature and nurtured his passion for sports - he accredits both for his success today.
Quick Facts

Also Known As: John Winslow Irving, John Wallace Blunt Jr

Age: 82 Years, 82 Year Old Males


father: John Wallace Blunt

mother: Frances Blunt

Novelists Screenwriters

U.S. State: New Hampshire

Notable Alumni: University Of New Hampshire

Ancestry: American Canadian

City: Exeter, New Hampshire

More Facts

education: University of New Hampshire, University of Iowa

  • 1

    What inspired John Irving to become a writer?

    John Irving has mentioned that his experiences as a wrestler in high school and college inspired him to become a writer. He often draws on his wrestling background in his novels.

  • 2

    What recurring themes can be found in John Irving's novels?

    Themes of fate, family dynamics, identity, and the impact of past events on the present are common in John Irving's novels. He often explores complex relationships and the ways in which individuals navigate life's challenges.

  • 3

    How does John Irving approach the writing process?

    John Irving is known for his detailed outlining process before he begins writing a novel. He typically plans out the major plot points and character arcs before diving into the actual writing. He has also mentioned that he writes his novels in longhand before typing them up.

  • 4

    What is John Irving's perspective on the role of humor in literature?

    John Irving believes that humor is an essential element in literature, even in serious or dark subject matter. He often incorporates humor into his novels as a way to engage readers and provide a sense of lightness amidst heavy themes.

  • 5

    How does John Irving's background in screenwriting influence his approach to storytelling?

    John Irving's background in screenwriting has influenced his approach to storytelling by emphasizing the importance of structure and pacing in his novels. He often writes with a cinematic quality, creating vivid scenes and using dialogue effectively to drive the narrative forward.

Childhood & Early Life
John Irving was born to Helen Frances and John Wallace Blunt, Sr. in Exeter, New Hampshire. His father was a pilot in the Army Air Force - his plane was shot down over Burma in 1943.
He was raised by his step-father and his mother and was a part of the Phillips Exeter Wrestling Program, where he was both a student and an athlete. He was later made an assistant coach for wrestling - a sport he pursued for two decades.
At the age of 15, Irving read ‘Great Expectations’ by Charles Dickens, which left an indelible impact on him. He enrolled at the University of New Hampshire and then studied at the University of Iowa, where he earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in 1967.
Continue Reading Below
His first book ‘Setting Free the Bears’ was published in 1968 at a time when he was teaching at the University of Iowa. He continued to teach at the university and briefly worked at Mount Holyoke through the 1970s. At the same time, he wrote two other novels, ‘The Water-Method Man’ and ‘The 178-Pound Marriage’, both of which became extremely popular.
He shot to fame with his fourth novel, ‘The World According to Garp’, which was published in 1978. It hit the best-sellers lists for months and even won him an award in 1980.
‘The World According to Garp’ was eventually adapted into a film starring Glenn Close, Robin Williams and Mary Beth Hurt, which was nominated for the Academy Awards. All this success inspired Irving even more, which led him to author, ‘The Hotel Hampshire’, published in 1981. The same year, he penned a short-story for the first time titled, ‘Interior Space’.
In 1985, he authored one of his greatest works yet, ‘The Cider House Rules’, which is the story of an orphan who yearns to be adopted and a doctor who looks after him and his needs.
He eventually adapted the novel into a film of the same title, which was released in late 1999. The same year, he documented his time as a writer in Hollywood in the first-of-its-kind memoir, ‘My Movie Business’.
During the production of ‘Cider House’, he continued to pen novels and wrote a number of noteworthy publications including, ‘A Prayer for Owen Meany’, ‘A Son of the Circus’, ‘A Widow for One Year’ and ‘The Imaginary Girlfriend’. Once again, ‘Owen Meany’ was adopted for the big screen under the title, ‘Simon Birch’.
In the early 2000s, he continued his readers engrossed with works like ‘The Fourth Hand’, ‘Until I Find You’ and his first children’s book, ‘A Sound Like Someone Trying Not to Make a Sound’. In 2012, he authored ‘In One Person’, which is his 13th novel till date and includes details of his own personal life.
His books deal largely with literary themes which include details from his own life, his wrestling career and his sexual fantasies. Although, he has stated time and again that he likes to write with an ‘open imagination’ he uses his experiences as a young boy and adult as a launch pad for his writings.
Continue Reading Below
Major Works
‘The World According to Garp’ was published in 1978 and was a finalist for a prestigious book award. The book sold over 1, 20,000 copies in the first week and was even adapted for a movie, starring Robin Williams. The book is considered his major work and openly deals with dark themes related to death, sexuality and gender visibility.
In 1985, he authored ‘The Cider House Rules’, which became a national best-seller and was even adapted into a film of the same title. The movie was nominated for the ‘Academy Award for Best Picture’.
Awards & Achievements
He won the ‘National Book Award’ in 1978 for ‘The World According to Garp’.
In 1992, he was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
John Irving won the ‘Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay’ for his script for ‘The Cider House Rules’ in 2000.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1964, he married Shyla Leary and they had two sons - Colin and Brendan. They got divorced in the early 1980s.
He married Janet Turnbull in 1987. The couple have a have a son, Everret.
In 2007, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, for which he had to undergo radical prostatectomy.
Facts About John Irving

John Irving is known for his unique writing process, which involves starting with the last sentence of his novels and working backwards to the beginning.

He is an avid wrestler and has incorporated his passion for the sport into several of his novels, drawing on his own experiences as a high school and college wrestler.

John Irving has a deep love for bears and often includes them as prominent symbols in his works, such as in his novel "The Hotel New Hampshire."

He is a vocal advocate for the rights of marginalized communities, and his novels often explore themes of social justice and acceptance.

John Irving is multilingual and has translated his own works into several languages, showcasing his dedication to reaching a global audience with his stories.

Recommended Lists:

See the events in life of John Irving in Chronological Order

How To Cite

Article Title
- John Irving Biography
- Editors,

People Also Viewed

Ben Affleck Biography
Ben Affleck
Salman Rushdie Biography
Salman Rushdie
Matt Damon Biography
Matt Damon
Kristen Wiig Biography
Kristen Wiig
Quentin Tarantino Biography
Quentin Tarantino
Colin Jost Biography
Colin Jost
Larry David Biography
Larry David
Christopher Nolan Biography
Christopher Nolan
(American, British)