John Irving‘s 14th novel, “Avenue of Mysteries,” is built upon the interplay of past and present. The protagonist, Juan Diego, is an aging Mexican-American writer with health problems. But the book spends a great deal of time with the character’s 14-year-old self, who lives in Oaxaca, Mexico. The adolescent Juan Diego in Mexico is one of the city’s dump kids, who scavenges for valuables among the trash. He lives with the “dump boss” and his sister, Lupe, who’s clairvoyant but unintelligible to anyone except Juan Diego.
What Juan Diego said was that he’d had two lives — two separate and distinctly different lives. The Mexican experience was his first life, his childhood and early adolescence. After he left Mexico — he’d never gone back — he had a second life, the American or midwestern experience … What Juan Diego always maintained was that, in his mind — in his memories, certainly, but also in his dreams — he lived and relived his two lives on “parallel tracks.”
John Irving sits down with Dave Miller at Wordstock to talk the themes in this novel, his creative process, and more. If you’ve always wanted to ask John Irving a question, post it on our Facebook page.
- John Irving: Author of “Avenue of Mysteries,” 13 other novels and the Academy Award winning screen play for “Cider House Rules”