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The Imaginary Girlfriend (Ballantine Reader's Circle)

3.38  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,723 Ratings  ·  103 Reviews
Dedicated to the memory of two wrestling coaches and two writer friends, The Imaginary Girlfriend is John Irving's candid memoir of his twin careers in writing and wrestling. The award-winning author of best-selling novels from The World According to Garp to In One Person, Irving began writing when he was fourteen, the same age at which he began to wrestle at Exeter. He co ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published December 3rd 2002 by Ballantine Books (first published January 1st 1996)
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A Prayer for Owen Meany by John IrvingThe World According to Garp by John IrvingThe Cider House Rules by John IrvingA Widow for One Year by John IrvingThe Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving
Best of John Irving
14th out of 60 books — 298 voters
Of Mice and Men by John SteinbeckThe Sorrows of Young Mike by John ZelaznyA Prayer for Owen Meany by John IrvingThe Grapes of Wrath by John SteinbeckThe Cider House Rules by John Irving
Great "JOHNS" Of Literature.
173rd out of 186 books — 34 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jun 24, 2014 Petergiaquinta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: iowa-city
I pulled into Iowa City yesterday afternoon, not planning to be in Iowa at all when I had woken up that morning. But while I was mowing my front yard, my son came up to me and said his ride back to college had fallen through; there was something about a texted dispute with the girl driving him about how much gas money he would owe her, and he told me that he had told her to stick it...

I suggested to him that he needed to work on his interpersonal communication skills, especially with women, but
Apr 28, 2008 Remi rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Readers of anything John Irving
Shelves: reviews-by-remi
One of the beautiful things of reading his collection of short vignettes on his life is that I now truly feel I understand more about my favorite writer. Any Irving fan should read it.
Laura Buechler
Feb 17, 2011 Laura Buechler rated it did not like it
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
Let me save you a lot of time and offer the sixty-second summary of this book:

"I'm John Irving. I have written lots of excellent books. This memoir offers no information on any of them. Instead, please enjoy a long list of people I have wrestled with, or against, and the people they have wrestled with, or against, and the names of the coaches who watched us wrestle, and the names of the wrestlers that I have coached. I will also provide details like how much all these people weighed, at the time
مروان البلوشي

هذا أول عمل أقرأه للروائي الأمريكي جون إيرفينغ، ولا أظن أنه سيكون الأخير. أردت أن أجربه، أن أدخل عالمه ببطء، فسرني ما وجدت. اشتهر هذا الروائي الأمريكي بجمعه بين نوعية كتابته الأدبية العالية، والنجاح التجاري الضخم الذي رافق أعماله، مما مكنه من التفرغ التام لـ"مهنته" الأدبية في سن مبكرة، والعيش بمستوى معيشي مريح للغاية.

والحقيقة أن إيرفينغ يختلف عن الراوئيين الأمريكيين الذين اطلعت على أعمالهم حتى الآن، فهو لا يعتمد على جمل "هيمنغواي" البرقية القصيرة، ولا على مونولوغات "فوكنر" التي تحتل صفحات كاملة
Dec 21, 2009 Katherine rated it it was ok
I was disappointed in this book. It was pretty skimpy to begin with and when you remove all the wrestling stuff (in which I have zero interest) you are left with a couple of pages of Irving’s experiences and opinions on writing. This was interesting but I actually found far more of that in his fictional works – particularly in his latest Last Night in Twisted River. In fact, although obviously not reliable on a fact by fact basis, I think you also get a better sense of the man by reading his fic ...more
May 08, 2012 Cathy rated it really liked it
I bought this thinking it was an Irving title I'd somehow missed -- and a memoir no less! Then it turned out I had read it before, as it was originally featured in Trying to Save Piggy Sneed. No matter; it was good enough to read again. I was amazed that I was so interested in the wrestling parts! Also, apart from the very cool title, chapter titles include: The Half-Pound Piece of Toast, and The Hundred-Dollar Taxi Ride.
Aug 02, 2016 Květa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Často říkám svým studentům v hodinách tvůrčího psaní: první stránka papíru, která čeká, až na ni napíšete první větu vaší další knihy, je nádherná a děsivá právě tím, že tento nepopsaný list papíru vůbec nezajímá, jestli jste nebo nejste slavní; tato prázdná stránka nečetla žádné vaše dosavadní dílo - nebude vás srovnávat s těmi romány, které se jí od vás líbily, ani se vám nebude posmívat za vaše předchozí neúspěchy. A to je na začátku - na každém novém začátku - to nejúžasnější a zároveň nejt ...more
Feb 15, 2016 James rated it really liked it
I first read Irving's 'The World According To Garp' in 4th grade. I haven't read him as consistently as other authors, but he was my first truly mature writer, read as a nearly mature reader. That I later fell into writing and wrestling was a happy coincidence.

I really enjoyed this book and think you will to.

You don't need to be a wrestler, athlete or writer to enjoy 'The Imaginary Girlfriend.' This crisp, autobiography following his athletic and early literary career communicates the joys and p
Christopher Roth
Jul 23, 2014 Christopher Roth rated it liked it
At first I thought this was the other John Irving memoir, the later one, where he talks about being bisexual, which is ironic in some ways because that one sounds really interesting, but this one sounds like the memoir of someone whose life was completely uneventful and without emotional content, which can *hardly* be true of Irving. The arc of this book is from privileged upbringing as a New England faculty brat (struggling with undiagnosed dyslexia) through a mediocre college career through im ...more
Aug 29, 2013 Shauna rated it liked it
The Imaginary Girlfriend gets three stars rather than five because it's a memoir (though Irving makes it clear he remembers things as an author does, meaning more inventively than actually) and there's nothing jaw-dropping about reality as it happened, in my mind.
It gets three stars rather than none, however, because it's written cleanly and succinctly. For a writer who says he doesn't like Hemingway (and how dare he?!), he seems to prefer sparse prose to overwritten.
The book ties wrestling to
This short little mini-memoir was an interesting read by Irving. Interesting because I feel like he chose to tunnel his life into very specific topics. He spends a lot of time recapping his and his sons' wrestling careers, and while normally I might have found this quite boring, I am almost used to reading about wrestling at length from reading Irving's book before this.

I think what I found most surprising what that he claims to hate Vienna after spending time there in college and after college
Laura Walsh
Dec 24, 2015 Laura Walsh rated it it was amazing
I have loved everything I have read written by John Irving - some more than others, but every one was enjoyable in its own right. I am not a fan of wrestling, and although many words here are devoted to this aspect of his life, I found myself racing through the book, eager to learn more about the man who is my favorite contemporary author.
Paula Dembeck
In this short memoir, Irving shares with the reader his two passions in life: writing and wrestling.

Irving begins by describing his difficult experience in school. An undiagnosed dyslexic, he never did well in his studies, but he took up wrestling which he loved and which ultimately prepared him for his future. He believes wrestling has taught him much of what he really knows in life.

Irving began creative writing at the age of fourteen, at the same time he took up wrestling. As he describes bot
Steve Smits
Aug 09, 2015 Steve Smits rated it liked it
A short memoir by the noted author. He speaks of his youth when competition wrestling was an important part of his life. His devotion to wrestling has lasted into his adult years as a coach and mentor to his boys. He says that the discipline required to prepare to wrestle has carry over to the discipline behind good writing -- one-eighth talent and seven-eights hard work. (One thinks that he's modest about his talent as the reason he's such a good writer.) Irving reminisces about the authors tha ...more
Robert C.
Sep 22, 2014 Robert C. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just noticed that Goodreads recommends that readers of this book will also enjoy Incest.

I'm really tempted to leave the review there, but that would give a wholly inaccurate picture of what this book is about, I mean - this is a book about the author's 'development as a novelist, a wrestler and a wrestling coach' and his love for his children - but I'm pretty sure it's not about that kind of love for his sons.

It's actually a very nice trip through various stories around wrestling, writing and
Dec 25, 2015 Robin rated it really liked it
This is a small book -180 pp - and it's John Irving's memoir about wrestling. I knew from reading his other books that wrestling played a part in his life, but now I know it played the major role in his life. He covers his wrestling and coaching career starting at Exeter. He gives details that only a wrestling fan could appreciate, but with such passion that one cannot help but be swept along. His two elder sons were wrestling champions and he has a young son that he'll no doubt steer in that di ...more
Aug 07, 2010 4th-8th rated it liked it
Shelves: adult
I was doubtful I could read much of Irving's interest in wrestling. Sports is not my thing. The wrestling in his life makes me understand some of the intensity men/boys have for sports and how it can be more than an activity. It is such a passion for him. His writing as a referee has been the most enlightening. I can be hooked by this level of sports and human drama. As a referee at one tournament he and another ref seemingly disqualified most of Maine.Is it strange that such a famous American w ...more
Oct 26, 2010 Johnvano rated it liked it
Recommends it for: aspiring novelists
The title makes you think it's another quirky novel by the craftsman, but it's actually a short writing memoir. "The Imaginary Girlfriend" offers the reader a comfortable peek into Irving's writing journey, the slow beginning, his feelings of inadequacy, his philosophy of hard work, and his wrestling.

The book is mostly about wrestling--his own, his coaches, his sons. There's far too much of it, but it is his life and it works as a beautiful backdrop for lessons about the craft of writing. I enj
Die Autobiographie von John Irving, der nebenbei gesagt einer der Schriftsteller ist, von denen ich fast alle Bücher habe. Dieses hier habe ich durch Bookcrossing erhalten. Es war ganz nett, aber nicht unbedingt eines dass ich mir nun auch unbedingt kaufen muss.
Irving erzählt davon, dass er Legastheniker ist und deshalb nicht wirklich gut in der Schule war. Er war immer sehr langsam beim Lesen, aber hartnäckig. Und irgendwann hat er dann auch am Schreiben Gefallen gefunden. Seine zweite Leidens
Linda Reich
Dec 25, 2015 Linda Reich rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Funny and very thought provoking.

While never a devoted wrestling fan but a devoted reader of John Irving and a former English and creative writing teacher, I learned a lot about writing and wrestling. I enjoyed the humor and the influence of coaches, students, family and friends. I especially appreciate the honesty of Mr. Irving as it pertains to talent and hard work.

and creative writing
Dec 27, 2015 Greg rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
As sometimes happens with autobiographies, The Imaginary Girlfriend gets a little dry with names and specific details which are only relevant to those involved. In this book, the names became more important than the story which left me wanting. Irving is an excellent writer and I have greatly enjoyed his fiction, but unfortunately he did not bring his engaging storytelling skills to this book.
Sep 08, 2014 Roxanne rated it did not like it
Shelves: memoir
Surprisingly disappointing given my regard for the writer. This was written by an ? There's very little about his development as a writer. Unless you're interested in the wrestling career of a not-very-successful wrestler, this brief memoir doesn't have much to offer.
Katharine Nohr
Jan 01, 2016 Katharine Nohr rated it really liked it
Entertaining memoir, mostly about the author's experiences wrestling in high school and college. It was the most entertaining means of learning the rules and strategies of wrestling. Irving provided some helpful insights into his world as an author.
Joy Ewing
Love Irving

The sections on writing interested me more than those on wrestling, but Irving makes the connections clear. The last chapter (?) on teaching writing really resonates, I think. Now I'm ready to start his latest novel.
David Ward
Jan 25, 2016 David Ward rated it liked it
Shelves: memoirs, non-fiction
The Imaginary Girlfriend by John Irving (Ballantine Books 1996)(813.54) is a memoir of John Irving. Had I not known the title, I could never have guessed it. Most of the book is constituted of the author telling us what a hardworking and underappreciated wrestler he was on the prep, college, and amateur levels. Mr. Irving, if you happen to see this, you sounded just like Uncle Rico in "Napolean Dynamite" (e.g., "I wish I could play my senior season again...") Fortunately, I realized how tongue-i ...more
Sarah Hollars
Apr 30, 2016 Sarah Hollars rated it really liked it
The way John Irving writes is so comforting and warm. This book was such a pleasure to read and to be able to see parts of his life that have influenced his writing. A quick read that acts as a good, quiet home cooked meal with family.
Ça m'a plutôt plu dans l'ensemble, alors qu'au début c'était pas gagné... Le style est clair et j'ai appris des choses sur le monde de la lutte.
Irving a vraiment eu un parcours intéressant et atypique.
Penny Sitler
Jun 25, 2016 Penny Sitler rated it it was ok
I find John Irving difficult to read, but this was one of the easier books of his to get through, perhaps because it was his memoir. Why does my brother love his writing? I don't get it...
Dec 24, 2015 Arthur rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Touching retrospective

An appealing insight into the author's mind and past, written so that a non-wrestler can enjoy. He also treats matters about writing.
Sam Flint
Dec 24, 2015 Sam Flint rated it it was ok
This book is almost exclusively about the author's wrestling career (high school, college, post-college) and even the wrestling experiences of his sons. If you want to learn more about his life in general, this is not the book for it.
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JOHN IRVING was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, in 1942. His first novel, Setting Free the Bears, was published in 1968, when he was twenty-six. He competed as a wrestler for twenty years, and coached wrestling until he was forty-seven.
Mr. Irving has been nominated for a National Book Award three times—winning once, in 1980, for his novel The World According to Garp. He received an O. Henry Award
More about John Irving...

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“Casey recalled how Gail defended herself in the parking lot of the English & Philosophy Building from the unwanted attentions of a lecherous fellow student, who shall remain nameless. ‘Please leave me alone,’ Ms Godwin warned the offending student, ‘or I shall be forced to wound you with a weapon you can ill afford to be wounded by in a town this small.’ The threat was most mysterious, not to mention writerly, but the oafish lecher was not easily deterred. ‘And what might that weapon be, little lady?’ the lout allegedly asked. ‘Gossip,’ Gail Godwin replied.” 1 likes
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