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The Water-Method Man

3.32  ·  Rating Details  ·  9,714 Ratings  ·  268 Reviews
The main character of John Irving's second novel, written when the author was twenty-nine, is a perpetual graduate student with a birth defect in his urinary tract--and a man on the threshold of committing himself to a second marriage that bears remarkable resemblance to his first....
"Three or four times as funny as most novels."

From the Paperback edition.
Paperback, 280 pages
Published June 23rd 1997 by Ballantine Books (first published 1972)
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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
10th out of 16 books — 293 voters
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann ShafferThe Grapes of Wrath by John SteinbeckJane Eyre by Charlotte BrontëThe Poisonwood Bible by Barbara KingsolverLife of Pi by Yann Martel
Massive Reading List
64th out of 131 books — 67 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Sep 10, 2007 Sharon rated it it was amazing
Shelves: alltimefavorites
this book is so unique in that it's absolutely not what you would expect from john irving. It's only his second or third book, and you can see the beginnings of Garp in it, but it's so simple and streamlined compared to some of his later work. It's a sweet, funny story with extremely memorable characters - in fact, I can't believe it hasn't been made into a movie yet. I think it's crying out to be. A movie about a book about the making of a movie.
Also, it made me start going around flipping my
Allie Riley
Mar 02, 2013 Allie Riley rated it it was ok
To be honest, I found this novel something of a confusing jumble. It flits between first and third person narrative, the places Vienna, Iowa, New York and Maine and is continually moving back and forward in time. The beginning is promising enough - PhD student Fred 'Bogus' Trumper consults renowned urologist Dr Jean Claude Vigneron about a particularly painful dose of "clap" with which he has been afflicted, so it would seem, since he was a teenager. Not being enthusiastic about a possible surgi ...more
Sep 12, 2012 Maggie rated it it was ok
Technically a 2.5 star rating.

I'm a big big fan of Irving's later books (Garp, Owen Meany, Cider House Rules, Until I Find You) so I was intrigued to read one of his earlier works. But, it was nowhere as good, which I should have expected. This was choppier and more uneven/inconsistent than I'm used to from Irving, and his storytelling skill is not nearly as good/compelling as it becomes.

Irving obviously naturally gravitates towards flawed, quirky characters, but in this book had not yet quite h
Peter Boysen
Mar 11, 2012 Peter Boysen rated it it was amazing
When R.E.M. recently broke up, it occurred to me that I hadn't bought one of their CD's (or downloaded any of their songs for my iPod, now that CD's are passe), since "Automatic for the People" -- which was released in 1992. Everything else was from "Out of Time," "Green," "Document," or "Life's Rich Pageant" -- all released between 1986 and 1991. That means that their last seven albums never made it onto my radar.

Some of this has to do with the fact that I adopted many of my favorite songs betw
Dec 07, 2008 Keri rated it it was amazing
This is one of his earlier books, and it is amazingly written. The first sentence alone still makes me shake my head in wonder.
Aug 14, 2015 Erin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was disappointed by The Water-Method Man, which is John Irving's second book. No agent would be able to sell this book today; the story is interesting, but the execution is weak. Irving's prose is confusing and inconsistent, with jumps from first to third person and seemingly random changes in POV. Furthermore, the narrative has so many flashbacks that it is difficult to follow what is happening now, versus one year ago, versus two, three or four years ago.

The main character, Fred "Bogus" Trum
Jun 02, 2009 Fred rated it liked it
I was pleasantly surprised in reading this early John Irving novel to find so many precursors of the documentary style I first encountered in The World According to Garp. In addition to both first-person and third-person passages of narrative, the book is filled with letters, bits of film scripts, translations of a supposed Nordic epic, and other bits of ephemera. Irving's liberal doses of humor, much of it morose if not actually dark, are also on display, as is his skill at creating memorable, ...more
Feb 28, 2012 Daniel rated it liked it
The Water-Method is John Irving's second book, written when he was 29 years old, but it certainly doesn't sound like it. This is, in fact, one of the funniest books I've read in a long time. It isn't too hard for me to find a book that will make me smile, but it is a rare pleasure to find one that will make me laugh out loud.

The story follows the stalled and frustrated life of Fred Trumper (alternately known as Thump-Thump and Bogus), a 29 year-old graduate student who can't seem to pay bills, f
Jun 22, 2010 Jaslo rated it did not like it
Um. What a hot mess!! It started with an interesting narrative voice and Irving's usual brilliance with language but took a turn for the...dare I say it...BORING!! Talk about creative writing, my beloved Johnny went wild in this book...going from epistolary, to screen play script, to third person, to first, to bizarro collage. Too creative. The transitions from one time and place to another lost me. Am I in Maine or Vienna? Am I asleep or daydreaming or is this happening?? And certain lines feel ...more
Jun 18, 2013 Corinne rated it liked it
Not my favorite Irving novel, but what he does here with time management (as in handling plot lines that take place in two or three different time periods) and point of view shifts is fascinating to read as a writer. Flashbacks can be problematic in fiction - keeping track of what's happening when can get confusing quickly for readers - so Irving gets around that issue by separating them out into different chapters. The POV changes as well, but I had a harder time determining the system he'd set ...more
Apr 08, 2007 christa added it
Shelves: trying2read
i want to read this because the main character has frequent urinary tract infections. but i cannot get into it.
Robert C.
Oct 16, 2014 Robert C. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my third attempt to read a book that was so hard to get into that it took me more than 20 years to progress past page 34 (at which point I found the bookmark I'd left there on my second attempt).

Happily, this attempt was a success, mainly because I figured out (but not until page 105) that this book is supposed to be humorous! Once I realised that the story was written for laughs, rather than being a perverse attempt to utterly confuse the heck outta me, we got on 'like a house on fire'
Jun 06, 2011 wally rated it really liked it
Shelves: irving-john
1 Yogurt & Lots of Water
Her gynecologist recommended Dr. Jean Claude Vigneron to Fred “Bogus” Trumper, the eye-narrator of this story. Ralph Packer named him Thump-Thump. Tulpen calls him by his surname, Trumper. Urinary tract is a winding road…they are both 28. Merrill Overturf is still lost…lives w/Tulpen.
2 War-Built Things
This chapter t’would appear to take a 3rd-person look through…
Fred likes to remember Merrill Overturf, the diabetic, who called him Boggle. The Iowa phase. Biggie his w
Andy Norris
Mar 10, 2011 Andy Norris rated it liked it
It didn't take long to get into this one, but the character depth was a bit lacking. I never really felt too much for any of them, but maybe Irving intended to write a story about people who aren't especially good or bad. Just people.

The story follows Fred Trumper during a period of being rudderless through college. Becoming a hapless half of a pair of accidental parents. Feeling smothered. Leaving his wife and son and running off to Europe for an extended period seeking to reconnect with an old
Apr 16, 2016 Labijose rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Encontré la novela bastante confusa. No está ni mucho menos entre lo mejor que he leído de Irving, del cual destacaría “ Las normas de la casa de la sidra “. Empieza bien, pero luego se me hizo bastante tediosa. El estilo, mezclando entre primera y tercera persona, me resultó poco satisfactorio. Se salvan algunos pasajes cómicos, pero en su conjunto está lejos de figurar entre mis lecturas más estimulantes. Su época posterior es mucho más recomendable. Me costó bastante terminarla.
Apr 06, 2014 Beth rated it it was amazing
Probably the best of John Irving's novels - absolutely hilarious. Wonderful, inventive story about a man with a urinary tract issue (among others).

Over the years whenever I was sad I read this book because it was sure to make me laugh!
Rebecca Olson
Nov 05, 2010 Rebecca Olson rated it liked it
After seeing "Cider House Rules" at Book-It this past season, I decided to revisit John Irving- I didn't realize how many of his books I hadn't read (he's quite a bit more prolific than I thought.) Water Method Man is one of his earlier novels, and while it was a good read, it wasn't *great.* It includes those recurring Irving obsessions with Vienna, big women, and uncomfortable sexual situations. There's even the compulsory mention of a character who used to wrestle (although it's not key to th ...more
Katelynn Price
Dec 26, 2014 Katelynn Price rated it liked it
When I started "The Water Method Man" I was a little bit disappointed because it wasn't of the usual quality of Irving. However, as I progressed with the novel, Irving's writing quality improved and as his first official book written as a Grad student, I am astonished at his early talent for an American narration and the usual humor he adds to all of his novels. The first humor is seen when our protagonist is at a football game where he is selling gear and he tries to save face with one of his s ...more
Aug 10, 2012 Leila rated it really liked it
Most people would consider this a very light Irving book, and not one of his great ones. It was one of his first novels, written before "The World According to Garp." I certainly wouldn't put in it the same category with "Garp," "Hotel New Hampshire," or "Cider House Rules." But I have an enormous amount of affection for it.... It involves a graduate student who fakes his dissertation, in the most ridiculous way possible. I found this almost unbearably hilarious when in graduate school myself. N ...more
Edward Keag
Mar 28, 2015 Edward Keag rated it it was ok
Oh how I hate a happy ending. Well, not really, but I do hate a happy ending when the protagonist doesn’t deserve it.
The whole way through the book the author does a brilliant job of making us over ride our basic human instinct to like the protagonist despite their morals and personality. Trumper is a truly despicable character, a selfish liar who does not have the strength of character to do anything meaningful with his life, and ends up hurting most of those who are stupid enough to get involv
Thomas Strömquist
The second book by Irving is a stumbling step forward (from Setting Free the Bears), but this is still for completistst only I think. Sex-obsessed and way to bizarro to be a truly enjoyable read.
Laura Cowan
May 26, 2013 Laura Cowan rated it really liked it
I like the way this book is written. The humor added onto the literary relational details is interesting to me, though as usual with John Irving I found myself skipping around the middle.
Rob McGrory
Feb 09, 2016 Rob McGrory rated it liked it
I wasn't quite sure of what to make of this book at first. It's so different from his recent works. It has all the humor, but lacked a few elements that make John Irving...well, Johnn Irving. I'm not quite sure exactly what all of them were, but the lack of an older woman seducing a younger man (I like how he pokes fun of himself for that in Widow for 1 year) and the tragic death of a pet or a child. Bogus' deformed member fills in the need for the grotesque. Overall, I would recommend this book ...more
Ashley Thompson
May 04, 2010 Ashley Thompson rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
One of the most random books I've ever read. It was my first John Irving novel...and my last.
Nov 12, 2008 Daneka rated it did not like it
Strangely enough, I thought it was crude. I put it down.
Jan 13, 2010 Céline rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
didn't event go through the second chapter
Oct 06, 2014 Ari rated it liked it
It is very difficult to give Irving less than four stars. In some other situation I would perhaps have given more.

But. Perhaps one should not read many Irving novels within a short period of time. At least the older ones seem to have some features which wear in daily use. For example the almost slapstick type of humour Irving uses. Some of the happenings are like from Harold Lloyd movies. Funny when consumed in moderate portions, not so funny when used in quantities. Sometimes it feels almost ca
Můj druhý Irving a zatím velmi dobré a to jsem se ještě nedostala k jeho profláknutým románům. Pitná kúra k nim sice nepatří, ale tím nijak neztrácí na hodnotě. Naopak je neuvěřitelné, jak Irving umí kroutit s příběhem a vy se v tom vůbec neztrácíte. Těch necelých 400 stránek má rozhodně co nabídnout, od zásadních životních rozhodnutí po naprosto zkratkovité chování hlavních postav. Začínám tušit, že právě tohle je Irvingova deviza, všechny ty zpackané lidské povahy. Zalejzá mi tímhle čím dál ví ...more
I have read several of John Irving's novels and found they seem to vary from 'engrossing and entertaining' to 'not sure I will make it to the end'. This is unhappily one of the latter, although this was written early in his writing career, so his storytelling talent has developed over the years. The central character, Bogus, is a man without direction. His path is shaped by those around him, which a friend (who is a fan of the book) says is linked to his basic cowardice. It's hard to feel any em ...more
Jul 15, 2014 Scott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: irving, 2014
I finished this book three months ago and for whatever reason, I'm only getting around to writing my review now.

The Water-Method Man is Irving's second novel, published when he was 30. It represents a major stride forward in Irving's development as a writer and makes it clear that he would become a major force on the literary scene. Whereas Setting Free the Bears is self-conscious and often plagued with a peculiar insolence toward the reader (which I suspect was a symptom of a young writer's ins
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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
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“I met him in the language lab. In a lull between lab sections, I was editing tapes for freshman German when this shuffling man of hair came in. Possibly twenty, or forty; possibly student, or faculty, Trotskyite or Amish farmer, human or animal; a theif lumbering out of a camera shop, laden with lenses and light meters; a bear who after a terrible and violent struggle ate a photographer. This beast approached me.” 4 likes
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