Together with 50 000 people I’m enrolled at the MOOC “The future of storytelling”, held by the Fachhochschule Potsdam. As the program of study for information science at the Fachhochschule Potsdam was a direct competitor to mine (Information science at the university of applied sciences in Darmstadt), I’m particularly interested in what they are doing now.
This is my answer to the first creative task of the week:
Retell this story by giving a short summary of what you can remember of it. (in less than 400 words)
Think about (try to remember) and write down what fascinated you most about this story. What can you remember best? What impressed you most? … Its characters? The locations? The plot? The style and voice of the story? Or maybe even the surroundings of how this story was told, maybe by your parents, grandparents, or maybe in your first self-read book? Tell us the story OF the story so-to-speak. (less than 500 words)
A widow for one year by John Irving
The publisher states on the book cover: „A normal reader wants to know the ending of a story. The readers of John Irvings books wish the story would never end“.
For me, this is not only a claim to advertise the book, but describes my feelings about „A widow for one year“ very well. I already stated to love this book in my other blog, SlowLifeLab.
Comparing the story with the description of the archplot in chapter 5 of „The future of storytelling“, I cant’t see many parallels.
There is a main character in „A widow for on year“. Its name is Ruth Cole. During the story she becomes a famous writer and also a widow for one year. But the latter is not the climax of the story. Her husband dies in the middle of the book and after a short time of mourning, the second part of the story goes on.
After reading the book several times I’ve got the feeling, that Ruth is not really the main character but serves as storyline to present the storys of several minor characters.
As there are:
- Marion Cole, her mother, who is beautiful but sad about the death of Ruth’s two brothers
- Ted Cole, her father, author of picture books and serial womanizer
- Eddie O’Hare, the adolescent lover of her mother, who will never forget her
- Hannah, Ruth’s best friend and a counterpart to her father
The story is split in three parts: In the first part, Ruth is a child and Eddie lives with the family, jobbing as a kind of „authors assistant“. Her father hired him at least to cheer his wive after the death of Ruth’s elder brothers.
In the second part, Ruth is already a writer. Her latter husband Allen helps Eddie to get in contact with her again. He gives her a book, written by her mother, who disappeared when she was a child.
The third part is a criminal story. During the research for a new book, Ruth hides behind a curtain in a prostitutes room. A man killes Rooie, the prostitute. Harry, a retired policeman and fan of her books identifies her as the hidden witness.
In the end, after a year of being widow, she gets together with Harry. Meanwhile Eddie finds back Marion.
A good ending, but no real antiplot. For me, the „hook“ was the story of Eddie, who could never forget Marion. The hold was the criminal story and the payoff were the little coincidences and funny comments during the whole story. The made me laugh out loud several times.
Even the first two sentences of the novel are carrying this humor I love:
During a holiday in 2008 I found a book in a hessian bookstore: „Ein Geräusch, wie wenn einer versucht, kein Geräusch zu machen“ (in Englisch: “A Sound Like Someone Trying Not to Make a Sound”). This is the name of the famous fictional childrens book by Ted Cole, which is talked about a lot in the first part of „A widow for on year“. Tatjana Hauptmann, a German illustrator seems to love the novel as much as me. She made a real childrens book out of the fictional one.