John Irving

Novelist, Screenwriter, Actor
The novels of John Irving commonly melded darker shades of comedy, tragedy, infidelity and familial dysfunction, enacted by casts of fascinatingly eccentric misfits. His breakthrough, The World According to Garp ... Read more »
Born: 03/02/1942 in Exeter, New Hampshire, USA


Actor (10)

The Late Show With Stephen Colbert 2015 (Tv Show)


John Irving und wie er die Welt sieht 2012 (Movie)

Himself (Actor)

Great Expectations 1996 - 1997 (TV Show)


In Censors We Trust 1992 - 1993 (TV Show)


Storytellers: The PEN Celebration 1987 - 1988 (TV Show)


Do Not Enter: The Visa War Against Ideas 1986 - 1987 (TV Show)


The Paper Curtain 1985 - 1986 (TV Show)


The World According to Garp 1982 (Movie)

Referee (Actor)
Writer (7)

The Door in the Floor 2004 (Movie)

(from novel: "A Widow for One Year") (Source Material)

The Cider House Rules 1999 (Movie)


The Cider House Rules 1999 (Movie)

("The Cider House Rules") (Source Material (from novel))

Simon Birch 1998 (Movie)

("A Prayer for Owen Meany") (Source Material (from novel))

The Hotel New Hampshire 1984 (Movie)

("The Hotel New Hampshire") (Source Material (from novel))

The World According to Garp 1982 (Movie)



The novels of John Irving commonly melded darker shades of comedy, tragedy, infidelity and familial dysfunction, enacted by casts of fascinatingly eccentric misfits. His breakthrough, The World According to Garp (1978), came relatively early on, but Irving maintained its vibrant sales with later offerings like The Hotel New Hampshire (1981), The Cider House Rules (1985), and A Prayer for Owen Meany (1989) - many of which were made into successful feature films. Critical response was decidedly mixed on a number of his books, with the common complaint being that they were overly wordy and/or awkwardly structured. Regardless, readers gravitated in large numbers to Irving, savoring his unusual characters and storylines, and correspondingly offbeat humor. Irving stated that the things he read and imagined as a boy proved formative and were what led him to choose writing as his vocation. His subject matter was frequently provocative, with offbeat sexuality and the need for sexual tolerance being two themes that recurred in his work. Irving's female characters tended to be more resilient and gifted than often found in novels of similar subject and style, and the sport of wrestling, which played an important part in Irving's life for many years, also made regular appearances. With one of the longest lists of consecutive bestsellers for any author and more than 12 million books sold in 35 languages, Irving's importance in the history of American literature could not be underestimated.


John Blunt

Abandoned family before John's birth; they never met

Colin Irving Actor

Born c. 1965; mother, Shyla Irving

Shyla Irving

Married Aug. 20, 1964 Divorced 1982

Colin Irving

Taught at Phillips Exeter Academy

Brendan Irving

Born c. 1969; mother, Shyla Irving

Everett Irving

Born Oct. 3, 1991; mother, Janet Turnbull

Janet Turnbull

Born c. 1954; Canadian Married 1987

Helen Winslow



University of New Hampshire

Durham , New Hampshire 1965
(Cum Laude)

Phillips Exeter Academy

Exeter , New Hampshire

University of Iowa

Iowa City , Iowa 1967
studied with Kurt Vonnegut

Institute of European Studies

1963 - 1964
studied under Gunter Grass

University of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania 1961 - 1962



Tackled a young man's bisexuality in thirteenth novel In One Person


Announced writing collaboration with Tod 'Kip' Williams (writer and director of "The Door in the Floor") for adaptation of 2001's The Fourth Hand


Wrote decade-spanning novel Last Night in Twisted River


Wrote screenplay of "The Door in the Floor," which chronicled a summer in the lives of famous children's book author Ted Cole (Jeff Bridges) and his beautiful wife Marion (Kim Basinger); film adapted from his best-selling 1998 novel A Widow for One Yea


Published My Movie Business: A Memoir, an intriguing look at his film experiences


Made screenwriting debut with "The Cider House Rules," based on 1985 novel; film focused on Dr. Wilbur Larch (Michael Caine), an ether-addicted OB-GYN and abortionist who runs an orphanage, and his protégée Homer Wells (Tobey Maguire); made uncredited cam


Loosely based on his novel A Prayer for Owen Meany (1989), drama feature "Simon Birch" released; unhappy with changes made to his original story, demanded and received credit "Suggested by 'A Prayer for Owen Meany'"


Began attempts to turn sixth novel The Cider House Rules into feature film


Second film based on his work "The Hotel New Hampshire" written and directed by Tony Richardson


Played a wrestling referee in George Roy Hill's "The World According to Garp," first film adapted from one of his novels; screenplay by Steve Tesich


Had breakthrough success with fourth novel The World According to Garp


Returned to Mount Holyoke as Assistant Professor of English


Published debut novel Setting Free the Bears; initial foray in movie-making, worked with director Irvin Kershner on film adaptation of novel; film never made


Worked as English instructor at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA

Grew up a faculty brat in Exeter, NH, home of prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy; became bookworm despite dyslexia, as well as developed life-long passion for wrestling

Worked as writer-in-residence at University of Iowa in late 1960s

Was writer-in-residence at Brandeis University in Waltham, MA

Bonus Trivia


About his screenwriting debut: "It's been a worthwhile experiment. 'Cider House' is a good novel and a good film. But it took thirteen years. That's two novels I didn't write because of that screenplay. The process of moviemaking is so slow – slower, even, than writing and rewriting – that there is nothing in the least thrilling about it. Not to me...Writing screenplays has only made me appreciate writing novels more." – Irving quoted in New York, Dec. 13, 1999


Irving was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2007, and subsequently underwent radical prostatectomy.