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Book Review: The Last Chairlift

I feel like I live in John Irving’s fiction. It’s mostly because he writes about things that resonate personally.

In The Last Chairlift he wrote about the 85th and 87 Infantry which were part of the Tenth Mountain Division during World War II. I was stationed in the 87th Infantry while I served in the U.S. Army in Europe. While there, it was part of the Eighth Infantry Division. When 8th ID was deactivated, the 87th Infantry was reunited with the Tenth Mountain Division based in Alaska.

I don’t know if I ran into Irving when I lived in Iowa City from 1970 to 1974. I remember seeing him in the English-Philosophy Building, but that could have been like one of the ghosts in The Last Chairlift. I may have imagined it. I know his novel The Water Method Man‘s main character lived at 918 Iowa Avenue in Iowa City. While reading the novel, I walked along Iowa Avenue from the Pentacrest to look at the house. That novel was published in 1972.

It is the familiarity with objects and places in his fiction that draws me in. Irving is one of the few fiction writers whose writing resonates. In Act III, my reading accelerated until I couldn’t put the book down. Few novels I read have this effect.

What surprised me about reading this and other Irving books is his work rarely appears on lists of banned books that circulate in Iowa and elsewhere. Perhaps he is not read by evangelical Christians, or librarians know enough to avoid placing his fiction in the stacks. Any engaged person should read his work.

I enjoyed The Last Chairlift a lot. Highly recommend!

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