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An Imaginary Girlfriend And A Lifelong Democrat

            What’s that guy’s name?

            You know the one I mean, the Notre Dame football player with the imaginary girlfriend?

            Don’t worry I’m not going to weigh in on what seems to me the just plain silly story about Manti Te’o (oh, the joys of googling!), the latest fascination for our silly media.

            It’s the very idea of an imaginary girlfriend that fascinated me.

            Hmm, I thought when I first heard about Manti, that would make a great title for a short story, perhaps even a novel.

            Hmmn, I thought some more.  I think I’ve read “The Imaginary Girlfriend” before.

            And I was half right.  It’s not a novel or a short story, but it’s the tile my favorite author, John Irving, provided for his 100-page autobiography which he wrote in the winter of 1995 while recovering from a shoulder operation while living on the side of a Vermont mountain.

            Sure enough, I even have the book.  It’s part of the collection of stuff in “Trying To Save Piggy Sneed”.  I say stuff because the book is part memoir, part fiction, and part homage to Irving’s favorite writers (Dickens of course and Gunter—with an umlaut over the u—Grass).

            “Trying To Save Piggy Sneed”, about an Exeter-area pig farmer, who went to that big sty in the sky in an hellacious fire, is one of the finest pieces of writing you’ll ever read.  It’s so good that I remember reading it on one of my old TV shows, back when the weird Grace (sister of Kathy) Sullivan was in control of Manchester public access.  Grace had a staffer, Mark something or other, who was so incensed that I would read something with questionable language, that he took a complaint to the Manchester School Board.

            Can you believe that?  An attempt to censor John Irving in the 21st century?

Only with Dr. Disgrace involved.

            But as usual, I digress.

            If not for Manti Te’o, I wouldn’t have thought of John Irving’s Imaginary Girlfriend which led me right into thoughts of censorship in Manchester.  Boy, if Mark thinks the language in Piggy Sneed is bad (I think the phrase was, “You get it hot enough, even shit will burn”…it was pig shit of course…a pretty fair line), he better stay away from Garp or the new one, In One Person.

            Piggy Sneed, by the way, is unique in its format.  The hardcover version of the book is eight by four inches.  Have you ever come across that sized book before?

            Maybe that’s why I remembered The Imaginary Girlfriend even though it’s not a novel or a short story.

            Naturally, it talks a great deal about Irving’s wrestling career and his days at Phillips Exeter Academy.  His father (step father actually but who’s counting) taught him at the school.  I thought of saving the factoid for a quiz, but it would be too tough.  The subject was Russian history, actually one of my favorite subjects at Plymouth State, but then my teacher was Dr. Duffy, not Mr. Irving.

            Even better than “The Imaginary Girlfriend” memoir is a short piece in the book entitled “My Dinner at the White House”.  Irving, in hilarious fashion, recounts his visit to the Reagan White House; Irving was apparently seated next to Joe Namath and offered a mostly unappreciated joke at Namath’s expense.  These were the days before Joe made that sexist comment on an NFL halftime show or else the joke surely would have been better.

            The best thing about the book, “Piggy Sneed” which Mark and Dr. Disgrace tried to censor and the “Imaginary Girlfriend” and “The White House Dinner” is that we get a look into Irving’s politics.

            As you might imagine, despite what I seem to recall as his opposition to a statewide property tax which drove up taxes on his piece of Vermont, he’s no right winger.

            In fact, he admits to being a lifelong Democrat.  In author’s notes, he writes, “I think Bill Clinton is a waverer (code language for not liberal enough)…I will almost certainly vote for him again –or for any Democrat over any Republican.  We all have our opinions concerning who or what is ruining our country; right wing conservatives are at the top of my last.  As a novelist, my political opinions or yours aren’t half as interesting to me as what happens at a good dinner party.”

            Here’s something that would fit into a good novel...in not a good dinner party.

            If not for Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, I would have forgotten all about John Irving being a lifelong Democrat (that beloved abortionist Dr. Larch should have been a clue).  Even worse that that, I would have forgotten all about the time Mark (maybe it was Marc with a C van something) and Dr. Disgrace tried to censor this greatest of lifelong Democratic authors on Manchester TV.

            You get it hot enough, even pig shit will burn…not that you can say that with Marc and Dr. Disgrace around.

            Thanks for the memory Manti.  I owe you one.

            This stuff is like Manna from Heaven.


Piggy's death served as literary inspiration for Lifelong Democrat Johnny Irving and a cause for censorship by Lifelong Democrat Kathy The Liberal Democrats's big sister Dr. Disgrace. "Maybe you could change the word from shit to manure".  Think of the children after all!

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Reader Comments (2)

Are you going to see Irving in Portsmouth at the Music Hall?
January 25, 2013 | Unregistered Commentersmilingatyou
People don't know this, but I'm basically a happy recluse.
I hardly ever leave Manchester (except to come to Concord and to go to Montreal and to visit my brother in Vermont five or six times a year), but if there were anyone I would go see, it would be Irving. Here's the problem...the time spent going to Portsmouth could be better spent reading...Don Quixote just isn't going all that fast! Just like the four hours I spent getting to and seeing LINCOLN yesterday was four hours I couldn't devote to reading a Seward bio (actually I'm into John Jay now...by the same author). Each hour is precious.
January 28, 2013 | Registered CommenterRep Steve Vaillancourt

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