Picks and Pans Review: The Fourth Hand
John Irving's novels suggest David Copperfield as rewritten by the editors of Weekly World News: Innocents pick their way among bomb-wielding nuns and bicycling bears. Yet this made-for-tabloid novelist spends a long, dull stretch of his 10th novel castigating the JFK Jr.-obsessed media for their coverage (bulletin: it was excessive) of his death, through the unlikely views of a TV newsman, Patrick Wallingford. At least Irving doesn't keep us waiting for the gore: Wallingford has a hand ripped off by a lion on page 13.
This "Lion Guy" has a nutty love affair with a Wisconsin woman who volunteers the hand of her husband (killed in another freak mishap) for a transplant. The couple share some touching moments but spend too much of the novel apart so the vacuous Wallingford can bed a succession of unfortunate stereotypes. Crave a dose of Irving this summer? Try his little-known early novels The Water-Method Man and The 158-Pound Marriage. (Random House, $26.95)
Bottom Line: Hand jive