Readings and questions #2, August 2, 2006
Location: Radio City Music Hall, New York, NY.
Also starring: Whoopi Goldberg, Tim Robbins, Stephen King, Stanley Tucci, John Irving, and Kathy Bates.
Context: benefit reading to raise money for Doctors Without Borders and the Haven Foundation.
Video: mp4 (in 4 parts)
Transcription credits: HPANA and The Leaky Cauldron with corrections and notes by Lisa Bunker.
Announcer: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome, Oscar, Emmy, Tony, and Grammy winner, a star of movies based on well-loved books such as The Color Purple, Sister Act, and Sister Act 2, Whoopi Goldberg! (crowd screams).
Whoopi Goldberg: Welcome to An Evening with Harry, Carrie and Garp. (crowd screams again) This evening, here on the great stage of the Radio City Music Hall, this legendary showplace of the nation, we will bring you three of the world's most legendary writers. Stephen King, John Irving, and JK Rowling (crowd screams).
They're three of my favorite writers I have to tell you. Three fantastic writers, three unmatched storytellers, three distinct phenomena, each an industry unto themselves. These three writers are forces of nature equal to or greater than any of the supernatural events you can find in their books (crowd laughs) It's not easy to make an industry grow.
These are the writers who have given us some of the
most unforgettable characters that were created - Harry, Carrie, and
Garp. Somebody should have put them all together a long time ago. Because
you know what, if that little wimpy boy had asked that poor girl to the
prom - (crowd laughs) it would have stopped a whole lotta crying.
This is a historic night. Never before has such a group of literary stars assembled on a single stage. In fact, I just saw all three of them backstage, and like they were busy working and talking. I wasn't really close to them but I think they're working on a little collaboration (crowd laughs). From what I heard, young Harry Potter casts a love spell on his teacher, a middle-aged gnome, and they have this really hot inter-species affair. And on their way back to Exeter they get lost and stumble on the lip of hell (crowd laughs). Only to be chased down by a group of telepathic wolves (crowd laughs).And I don't want to give away the ending but it will make you laugh and cry and tingle with enchantment and finally it will release you of your living form (crowd laughs). People like me who are somewhat dyslexic, sometimes we read sentences and we try to go after them and we say, "Oh I don't think that's what it said." (crowd laughs)
This is an intimate evening with these writers and would not be possible without all of you because you are 6,000 of their closest fans (crowd applauds). We have three active fan clubs assembled under this one roof. There are plenty of fans of JK Rowling here tonight (crowd SCREAMS). And I think I know why they're screaming. It's because all of the Stephen King fans are whispering to them all of the ways that Harry could possibly die (crowd laughs). Sometimes you've gotta let it go. You don't know what she's gonna write! It's just amazing how many fans there are here tonight.
You know there are untold millions of Stephen King fans here tonight (crowd screams). And they're all over the world. But we hardly ever get together because so many of us are really angry loners (crowd laughs).
John Irving's fans are here in full force (crowd screams). And
you know, John is famous for writing about strong women (women scream).
And maybe that's why women love him so much. He doesn't have a lot of
black women yet but I'm talking to him about that (crowd laughs). If
I could get the Rockettes out of the way that'd be great (crowd laughs).
This evening is really a tribute to you, the fans. You are the greatest readers of the greatest writers in the world. So put your paper-cut fingers and carpel-tunnelled hands together and give yourselves a round of applause. (crowd applauds)
If this evening proves nothing else, it proves that reading is alive and well (crowd screams) We packed this house which proves what happens when great books fall into the hands of great readers. Reading is alive and well because of the price of gas pushing $4.00 a gallon. Reading a fantastic book may just be only way most people can afford to travel right now. And finally, reading is alive and well because tonight we are harnessing it's awesome power for the benefit of two awesome causes. Causes so close to the hearts of this evening's [unintelligible] of authors.
The first is the Haven Foundation. Established to support writers and artists who suffered a serious illness or accident and can no longer support themselves.
other is Doctors
Without Borders. This is a medical humanitarian organization that
delivers emergency healthcare and aid to places where people are in urgent
need. You can be proud of the fact that the proceeds from the purchases
of your ticket will be put to good use in the pursuit of these missions.
Causes so important that even the ticket scalpers on 6th Avenue have
decided to kick in a couple of dollars (crowd laughs)
So with great authors and fantastic readers and worthy causes we bring you this very special Evening with Harry, Carrie, and Garp and tonight, introducing our big stars are a collection of artists that bring a special appreciation of their work.
But before introduce our first artist, I do want to say, It's great to see all these kids here. It's great to see that reading is alive and well. Parents, you have only this still in common. To introduce tonight's first author, I introduce you to an actor, director, and an Oscar winner, and he's also a pretty damn good guy. Ladies and gentlemen, to introduce Mr. Stephen King, Tim Robbins.
Andy Dufresne (crowd applauds). Andy Dufresne and the story of his "Shawshank Redemption" is my connection to the work of Stephen King (crowd applauds) The movie was, of course, a faithful adaptation of Stephen's short story, "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption." His masterfully told tale of incarceration and emancipation. I'm very proud to be associated with Shawshank.
Although the title has been a source of confusion for its many fans. Because of its power and the residence of its themes, "Shankshaw Redaction" has gone on to become one of those rare movies, whose impact only deepens over time. Like "Casablanca" or "It's a Wonderful Life," "Scrimshaw" was overlooked at first but found its way into so many people's hearts. In fact, it's a pretty good bet that it's airing on TNT as we speak (crowd laughs) "Shinkshank Reduction" was not necessarily the kind of story you might expect from Stephen King if you only knew him as the unrivaled master of the genre of horror but it is instantly recognizable to those of us who know that Stephen is first and foremost a master storyteller with an unusual grasp of what seizes the human heart and it is that side of Stephen that has been an enormous gift for me to be a part of.
Almost every day, a stranger will approach and with a religious look in their eye, explain to me how important "Scrabskank" is to them. How many times they've seen it, how it has changed them. Young, old, black, white, rich, poor, working man, criminal, - (crowd laughs) - "Shavishay" matters and it matters because Stephen King, in addition to his ability to scare you, has the compassionate heart of a great writer.
Stephen King matters, not only for his prolific skill, but for his extraordinary ability to create characters that define, in their unique way, who we are. And now, it's time to hear the thoughts of a few others, on the subject of Stephen King.
(Stephen King video rolls)
(Stephen King enters to music and loud applause and screaming)
Stephen King: Thank you. You guys, you guys are too much. I think all the muggles are home tonight watching TV (crowd laughs). The real people are here. You don't think this thing's (looks at his chair) electrified do you? (crowd laughs).
I can read but I don't think I can sit in this chair for the whole - well, so that was a really nice introduction and people said very nice things and now I think I'll read a really gross story (crowd laughs and screams). Because it's what I do. Hope you enjoyed your supper because you may not for long.
About 25 years ago, one of my wife's sisters told me about going to a pie-eating contest in a small town (crowd cheers) Some of you know this story (crowd laughs) One of the contestants ate too fast and threw up. Now I never met a gross story that I didn't like. So I adapted it, juiced it up, put it on steroids and dropped it into a book called Different Seasons and uh - (crowd applauds) - oh, thank you - and Rob Reiner put it into a movie called "Stand By Me" (crowd applauds) His was the PG-13 version, this is the R. It's the uh - (crowd applauds) This is "The Revenge of Lardass Hogan" - (crowd applauds) - from "Stand By Me."
(Stephen King reads his passage from Different Seasons)
(crowd applauds as Stephen King departs)
(crowd applauds and Stanley Tucci enters)
Stanley Tucci: Thank you very much. I'm not going to eat for a week. (crowd laughs). When I was asked to introduce the next writer, someone suggested that come out dressed in wrestling garb. Now, given the heat today, I almost acquiesced, but, I didn't want to embarrass myself or all of you really. So I'm going to just, umm - I wore a suit (crowd laughs).
Of this evening's three celebrated writers and extraordinary artists, only one has been inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, Whoopi Goldberg - no I - (crowd roars with laughter) - who knew? Granted it's a peculiar fact in the biography of a rather serious writer but it's exactly the kind of unexpected detail you might well find in a John Irving novel (crowd applauds).
John Irving's 11 unforgettable novels are deeply imbued in the unusual because they so often place offbeat characters in situations that are extreme. His work is the perfect meld of his credentials as an amateur wrestler and a world class writer. If the wrestler taught the writer nothing else, it's that adrenaline draws from a person, either their best or their worst and that life demands the capacity to think on your feet, or at the very least, on your knees. So it is also no surprise that John Irving isn't afraid to challenge readers head-on. His novels are unusually eventful, intricately plotted, and laced with symbols, metaphors, subplots, and refrains. His expansive stories tell the tale of a life in its whole. I think he achieves this through intimately detailed descriptions of his character's all-too-human behavior.
To quote from his novel, The Water-Method Man, "There is a danger in dwelling on small emotional things." Mr. Irving accomplishes what all of us, as artists, only hope to do. He confronts this danger head-on by allowing, or insisting, that his characters dwell on those things, and we as readers cannot help but follow suit. Novel after novel he asks his readers to explore with him, rules and manners and the consequences of breaking social codes. Not surprisingly, we are all the richer for having done so. And somehow, this combustion of irregular characters and improbable events never fails to synthesize seamlessly by the end.
Anyone who mistakes these characters for outlandish or finds their fate to inexplicable to be true has not been paying very close attention to ordinary life. But millions of faithful readers are grateful for the fact that John Irving has. And now please direct your attention to this short video about this extraordinary writer. Thanks (crowd applauds) .
(John Irving video rolls)
(John Irving enters to music and loud applause and screaming)
John Irving: Thank you. Because I knew what Stephen was going to read tonight, I've decided to eat after this event (crowd laughs) Thanks for that Steve.
And it was a great pleasure to be introduced by a guy who has been Puck in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and Frank Nitti and Lucky Luciano. Not to mention, Adolf Eichmann.
You might wonder what personal experience in my childhood prompted such a Christmas pageant as the one in A Prayer for Owen Meany (crowd applauds) In my case, religion and childhood were inseparable. As a child, acting out the story of the birth of Jesus was as close as you could come to the miracle.
I was Joseph once, I was a king, I was a shepherd, I was one of the animals in the manger, many times. I was the angel too. It's not a bad part. The angel has some good lines. At one time I was everyone, except the Virgin Mary. That wouldn't have worked I suppose. Although, my grandfather was a terrific female impersonator. In my town's amateur theatrical productions, my grandfather had all of the best women's rolls. Because he died when I was fairly young, I actually remember my grandfather better as a woman than as a man (crowd laughs) But I was never cast as the Virgin Mary and of course I never got to be the Christ child. Only babies got to be the baby Jesus which always struck me as unfair. After all, in the real Christmas story, if not in most Christmas pageants, Jesus has the leading role. What actor wouldn't want the part?
The premise of A Prayer for Owen Meany is at parts religious and childlike. In the summer of 1953, two 11-year old boys, best friends, are playing a little league baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire. One of the boys hits a foul ball that kills his best friend's mother. The boy who makes such surprisingly lethal contact with the ball, doesn't believe in accidents. Owen Meany believe's he is God's messenger.
Five months later, Johnny Wheelwright, the boy who lost his mother to that baseball is still Owen Meany's best friend. As Johnny says in the first sentence of this novel, "I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice, not because of his voice or because he was the smallest person I ever knew or even because he was the instrument of my mother's death, but because he is the reason I believe in God. I am a Christian because of Owen Meany."
(John Irving reads his passage from "A Prayer for Owen Meany")
(crowd applauds as John Irving departs)
(crowd screams and applauds as Kathy Bates enters)
Kathy Bates: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you and good evening. Tonight, our next author (pause, while crowd screams and applauds) makes her much-anticipated return to the United States, the first visit in six years (crowd screams and applauds again). And that's why at this moment I feel like Ed Sullivan when he was about to introduce the Beatles. Some of you kids be sure to ask your parents what I'm talking about on the way home (crowd laughs) The Beatles were in a band called Wings.
But this moment seems somehow bigger because with Pottermania (crowd screams), JK Rowling has managed to pull off a feat that no one ever thought possible. Transforming an entire generation of children into wild, screaming, frenzied fans of books (crowd screams and applauds) Let's not forget that Harry Potter arrived on our shores are a perilous moment in time. Just when it seemed that technology had infiltrated every last aspect of our lives, most at risk were our children. Between PCs and PlayStations, modems and multiplexes, we were in danger of losing an entire generation to the ravages of A.D.D.
Then, along came an author who tamed the cacophony with a whisper. With words on a page, JK Rowling lured kids away from the screens and into the quiet of their rooms and took them to places where Google does not go (crowd applauds).
With each thick book that they conquered, children gained the confidence to take on the next. The Harry Potter books that collected on shelves were showcased like trophies. And in the months they waited for the publications of next installments, something else amazing happened to these new readers, they became re-readers. Devouring again and again the same book for pleasure they had rushed through the first time just for plot.
Of course in our entertainment age it was inevitable that a book and a hero as popular as Harry would make his way from the book back to one of those screens. There were those who feared that the special effects of the movie would put an end to the reign of the book, and that children would rather watch a pre-imagined world of wizards than conjure up their own from a page.
Instead, Harry's legions went eagerly to the movies, and then faithfully back for their books. That's how we know - (pause while crowd applauds) - that's how we know that JK Rowling's spell was not so easily broken. That the magic she conjures turns children into readers for life. What are her secrets? Let's take a look.
(JK Rowling enters to music and loud applause and incredibly loud screaming)
Crowd: Happy birthday!
JK Rowling: No pressure then. No pressure. Like I wasn't feeling pressured enough already (crowd laughs). You talk about Beatlemania, I feel slightly like I'm Herman and the Hermits having to go on after the Stones and the Beatles (crowd laughs). My consolation is I have the most interesting shoes (crowd roars with applause). Snakes. Thank you for that.
I notice you like Snape. Just never give up hope you people, do you?
Anyway, I'm going to do a short reading from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (crowd screams). Short because umm, in my experience, my readers like me to answer questions and like me to hasten on to that part so I'm going to take a few questions after I've done this reading.
This concerns a part of the story where Harry goes back in time and watches as Albus Dumbledore -- a younger Albus Dumbledore -- goes to inform another famous pupil of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry that he has a place at the school (crowd cheers). And you really shouldn't be cheering that particular one (crowd laughs). Snape I can kind of see but - anyway....
(JK Rowling reads her passage from chapter 13 of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince")
JK Rowling: Thank you. You may have noticed, nobody told me the theme of the readings was to be vomit. So umm (crowd laughs), I could have done something with the puking pastilles but I was - I didn't know. Anyway, we have some questions now.
Christina: My name is Christina and I'm 13 years old and from Staten Island, New York. If you could bring one Harry Potter character to life, other than Harry, who would it be?
JK Rowling: If I could bring somebody to life?
Christina: Other than Harry.
JK Rowling: Other than Harry. Umm, personally, although it's a really tricky one, Hagrid. If I could have anyone (crowd applauds). Because I think - I think we'd all like a Hagrid in our life. Liability though he often is. It would be really great if I met a fundamentalist Christian, to say, "Would you like to discuss the matter with Hagrid?" (crowd laughs and applauds).
(To next person waiting) Hello.
Unknown (1): I'm 18 years old and I'm from New York. My question is, in Half-Blood Prince, Aunt Petunia is said to be oddly flushed when Dumbledore announces that Harry will be returning only once more to Privet Drive. Does this mean that Aunt Petunia harbors a hidden love or fondness for Harry and the connection he provides her to the wizarding world? (crowd laughs and applauds).
JK Rowling: That's an excellent question (crowd laughs). And like all the best and most penetrating questions, it's difficult to answer. But, I will say this. There is a little more to Aunt Petunia than meets the eye and you will find out what that is in book seven (crowd roars and applauds).
Cory Mayer: My name's Cory Mayer and I'm 9 years old and I'm from Bordentown, New Jersey. I absolutely love your books. I'm not a big reader but your books make me want to read and that makes my mom happy (crowd and JK Rowling laugh). She loves your books too. In a recent interview you hinted at two main characters dying and possibly Harry Potter too. Was Dumbledore considered one of the main characters or will we have the chance to see him in action once again? Since he is the most powerful wizard of all time and Harry Potter is so loyal to him, how could he really be dead?
JK Rowling: Ohhhhhhhh (Jo puts her head in her arms and crowd cheers and applauds). I feel terrible (crowd laughs). The British writer Graham Green once said that every writer had to have a chip of ice in their heart. Oh no (Jo says half weeping while crowd laughs). I think you may just have ruined my career (crowd laughs). Umm, I really can't answer that question because the answer is in book seven but ... you shouldn't expect Dumbledore to do a Gandalf. Let me just put it that way. I'm sorry (crowd moans and applauds).
Salman and Milan Rushdie: Hello. We are Salman and Milan Rushdie (crowd applauds). Umm -
JK Rowling: I'm not that sure this is fair (crowd laughs). I think you might be better at guessing plots than most. But anyway, off you go.
Salman and Milan Rushdie: We are 9 and 59. And one of us is good at guessing plots, not me. And this is really Milan's question and it's kind of a follow up to the previous one.
JK Rowling: Alright. Okay.
Salman and Milan Rushdie: Until the events of Volume 6, it was always made plain that Snape might have been an unlikable fellow but he was essentially one of the good guys (crowd screams approval).
JK Rowling: I can see this is the question you all really want answered.
Salman and Milan Rushdie: Dumbledore himself - Dumbledore himself had always vouched for him.
JK Rowling: Yes.
Salman and Milan Rushdie: Now we are suddenly told that Snape is a villain and Dumbledore's killer.
JK Rowling: Un hunh.
Salman and Milan Rushdie: We cannot, or don't want to believe this (crowd laughs). Our theory is that Snape is in fact, still a good guy (crowd applauds). From which it follows that Dumbledore can't really be dead and that the death is a ruse cooked up between Dumbledore and Snape to put Voldemort off his guard so that when Harry and Voldemort come face to face (crowd laughs). Harry may have more allies than he or Voldemort suspects. So, is Snape good or bad? (crowd laughs, applauds and screams and Jo chuckles). In our opinion, everything follows from it.
JK Rowling: Well, Salman, your opinion, I would say is ... right. But I see that I need to be a little more explicit and say that Dumbledore is definitely ... dead (crowd gasps). And I do know - I do know that there is an entire website out there that says - that's name is DumbledoreIsNotDead.com so umm, I'd imagine they're not pretty happy right now (crowd laughs). But I think I need - you need - all of you need to move through the five stages of grief (crowd laughs), and I'm just helping you get past denial. So, I can't remember what's next. It may be anger so I think we should stop it here. Thank you (crowd applauds).
So it is now my privilege to invite my fellow authors back onto the stage (crowd applauds). I don't feel worthy. So here, Stephen King and John Irving (crowd applauds).
Stephen King: And I would like to ask you to welcome the moderator who's going to allow us to take some questions from the audience, Soledad O'Brien who's the host of CNN's America Morning (crowd applauds).
Soledad O'Brien: We have more questions now but first, a very big thank you to each and every person who submitted a question to the authors. We received more than 1,000 in all. In fact, because there were so many, we could only select 12 and we've invited the lucky dozen to come sit close to the stage and therefore close to the microphones too. You've already met four of them, and we'd like to hear now what the other eight are so eager to ask of Stephen King, John Irving, and JK Rowling. So, we'll move onto our first question. Robert Knott is from Alabama. The question's for Stephen King. Go ahead Robert.
Robert Knott: My question is for Stephen King but I would first like to thank each of you for the wondrously inventive, endlessly fascinating, and beautifully crafted works of literature that you have brought to the world (crowd applauds). Thank you for your spellbinding storytelling and for this unique Evening with Harry, Carrie, and Garp (crowd applauds). Mr. King. do the contents of your head ever just scare the crap out of you? (crowd laughs).
Stephen King: No I pass the savings on to you (crowd laughs). No, I mean most of the time this stuff comes in and I just - I've said this before: There are people out there that pay a psychiatrist, you know, 90 dollars an hour, they only get a 50 minute hour, and those guys take all of August off and they go somewhere where it's cool. I do the same - you know, I vent the same terrible feelings of fear and inadequacy and phobic reactions and uh, people pay me. It's a great way to live, man (crowd laughs and applauds).
Soledad O'Brien: Our next question is from Lisa Peterson. She's from West Reading, Connecticut and her question is for John Irving. Go ahead Lisa.
Lisa Peterson: Hello. Thank you for those wonderful readings. I really enjoyed those. Mr. Irving, I really enjoyed your story about the real-life inspiration behind the Christmas pageant and Owen Meany and I was wondering if you' d want to share any other stories that lead to events or characters in that book? I'm thinking specifically of the armadillo and the chapter called "The Finger" but you're certainly not limited to those.
John Irving: (chuckles). Umm, I'm a very slow processor with those things that have affected me personally or emotionally. I don't write about things that way. If Owen Meany is - it's fair to say - is my "Vietnam Novel", it was written 20 years after the war.
When I wrote The Cider House Rules, I purposely set it in time back in the 1930s or 40s to move the stories as far away from the present-day political climate, the abortion subject, as I could. To sort of see it from a distance.
And I wrote my most autobiographical about my childhood and my adolescence most recently, when I was already in my late 50s and early 60s. I work better by waiting.
Owen Meany came about this way. I was back in my home town, and some people I'd gone to school with, grown up with, were also back for Christmas and I connected with two or three friends that, in some cases, I hadn't seen since they were 8 or 9 or 10 years old and now we were in our late 20s, 30s, um, children of our own. And for some reason the morbid subject came up of that list of our friends who had, umm, died in Vietnam or thoroughly altered the course of their lives by what they did to themselves not to go. Left their country, cut off their trigger finger, you name it. It was a fairly substantial list. That's my generation.
And someone brought up the name of someone who meant nothing to me. I thought they were mistake, I thought, "Well I never knew that kid," and they said, "Ohh yeah he moved away with his family when he was still only 10 or 12 but you remember him, you grew up with him." I said that the name didn't mean anything to me. They said to me, "Well, in Sunday school you used to pick him up by his ankles and shake him until all of the money fell out of his pants" (crowd laughs). And then I remembered this very little boy who was smaller than all of us.
And, we loved him but we liked to infuriate him because he had a voice like this. (in a high-pitched, scratchy voice). And we'd love to hear him get mad. He was so small that whenever you were around him you just had to pick him up, which he hated. So he came back to me - he came back to me as an 8-year old and a 9-year old and I said one of the stupidest things I'd ever said in my life. I said to my friends, "Oh he couldn't have gone to Vietnam, he's too small," having last seen him at the age of 8. And one of my closest friends said, "You moron, he probably grew." (crowd laughs) And I - you know I had a bad night. I went home and thought, what if he didn't grow? What if he didn't grow? And that became Owen Meany (crowd applauds).
Soledad O'Brien: Our next question is for Exsan Pre [terribly sorry if your name was spelt wrong] from Mountaintop, Pennsylvania and it's for JK Rowling. Go ahead.
Exsan Pre: Thank you. As a librarian, I would like to first thank you for attracting so many students and adults as well to reading. Since the Harry Potter series will be, unfortunately ending, what does the future for you, and for your readers hold? Do you have something planned to keep the anxious students and adults waiting to be released?
JK Rowling: I thought you were going to attack me
for Madam Pince and I would like to apologize for you and any other librarians
(crowd laughs) present here today and my get-out clause is always if
they'd had a pleasant, helpful librarian, half my plots would be gone.
'Cause the answer invariably is in a book but Hermione has to go and
find it. If they'd had a good librarian, that would have been that problem
solved. So, sorry.
Umm, I have a shorter, mercifully, book for I think slightly younger children that's half-written so I may well go back to that when Harry's done. I think I'll need a short mourning period though. You have to allow me to get past Harry.
Exsan Pre: Thank you so much.
JK Rowling: Thank you (crowd applauds)
Soledad O'Brien: Our next question is from Keri Hensonpeller from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and it's for Stephen King. Go ahead Keri.
Keri Hensonpeller: Hi. I'm here with my mom tonight, Kathy Kugan and she lives in Bucksport, Maine which is very close to Bangor, Maine. She says that you have been a tremendous contributor to the community and the community responds by treating you like a regular Mainer. How have you managed to maintain your local focus and commitment?
Stephen King: I'm just a regular guy, that's all. You know, the thing is, people will treat you - if they only see you on a stage at Radio City Music Hall - they treat you like you're a big deal and for one night you get to be a big deal but I'll tell ya something. I'm gonna go home, well, I have things that I have to do tomorrow but Saturday I'm gonna be home and my wife's gonna be there and she's gonna say, "Walk the dog and empty the dishwasher." (crowd laughs). And immediately your feet go back on the floor where you are.
We've lived in Bangor since 1979 which means that we have one other set of neighbors on the street who have lived there longer than we have but they're senile and they don't remember us so (crowd laughs) that almost doesn't matter anymore. You see what I mean. Otherwise it's been a complete turnover. So we have seniority without having senile-iority if you see what I mean. So we've been around. People know us. They've gotten used to us. You get past a point where, you know they say familiarity breeds contempt and before it breeds contempt it breeds neighborliness and that's the nice thing about living in a small town.
And that's where we live. We live in a neighborhood. We have an ice cream parlor around one corner and a forest around the other corner and I like it fine and that's where we live. It's like the village that you write about in the Harry Potter books (referring to JK Rowling) and it's like the towns that John writes about in a lot of the New England settings in his books and it's great.
Soledad O'Brien: Our next question is from R.A. Preneto Burns and he's from New York, New York and the question's for John Irving.
R.A. Preneto Burns: Good evening. I just wanted to ask - you've all created characters that we've fallen in love with, we've watch grow, we dream about, are there any characters in your universe Mr. Irving that you'd like to continue writing about or create a sequel about? Anyone in particular?
John Irving: That's a good question. I think I am spared the prospect of a sequel - I hate to make a prediction but I think I will never write a sequel for a very simple reason. I need to know the ending of my novel before I begin. Not just the ending but the tone of the voice of the ending. What's happened of major emotional importance. Who the main characters are. Who even the major minor characters are. Where their paths cross. I make a kind of street map of the novel, from the last sentence which I try to begin with and which is - I've always written the last sentence first and I work my way back.
Sometimes it takes a year to 18 months before I start to write the novel. I'm just starting, making a plan from the ending which I always know better than I know the beginning. It takes awhile to get to the beginning. Short example, I wrote the last sentence of the novel I'm working on now, my 12th novel, in January of last year. I wrote the first chapter in August of last year. That's exceedingly quick for me. It either bodes well or not so well for this new book (crowd laughs). I can't tell you that.
But that's just the way I work and as a consequence, it's impossible
for me to imagine that anything happens after the ending because the
ending has meant so much to me that it's where I begin.
On the other hand, here's what's comparable to a sequel and it happens to me most unconsciously many times. Characters come back as other characters in subsequent novels. And I don't even recognize their reincarnation while they're emerging. It's only when I finish a book that I realize, "Oh, this character is just another version of this character from a previous book."
This was so much the case in Owen Meany that the physical description of Owen Meany who is first described as looking embryonic, not yet born, was a passage I lifted from the physical description of the orphan Fuzzy Stone who dies of respiratory failure in The Cider House Rules, the novel before I wrote, A Prayer for Owen Meany. I am unaware if it's possible to get in trouble for plagiarizing yourself but (crowd laughs) I did. If you look at the physical description of Fuzzy Stone and the physical description of Owen Meany, they're almost word for word the same. The character of Hester in A Prayer for Owen Meany and the character of Melanie in The Cider House Rules, the character of Emma in Until I found You, they're the same woman, they're the same woman. They just emerge. And I never know it's the same woman until I think, "Oh god it's Erm - it's Melanie again!" you know? Here she comes. So, maybe that's my version of a sequel.
Why is that Dr. Larch in The Cider House Rules, Jenny Fields in The World According to Garp, and eventually Johnny Wheelwright, the narrator of A Prayer for Owen Meany all decide that they'll never have sex? You know, I don't know a lot of people like that (crowd laughs). But three important characters in three novels, it's honestly something I ever considered. So those are the curses of my sequels (crowd applauds).
Soledad O'Brien: Our next question is from Elaine Morton from Toronto, Canada and her question is for Stephen King.
Elaine Morton: Hello, how are you doing?
Stephen King: Good.
Elaine Morton: Excellent. Umm, The Tommy Knockers is by far the most terrifying book I've ever read to the point where I actually have never finished reading it because I am so afraid of it that I have to bury it and then try to bring it out again and then bury it again because it's so terrifying so (crowd laughs) I'm just wondering, what kinds of scary stories keep you up at night? Maybe your own? Maybe another author's?
Stephen King: Dig that book up girl and finish it!
Elaine Morton: I know. I actually tried digging it up before I came here and I couldn't find it so I think I'm going to have to find a new copy (crowd laughs)
Stephen King: That's a good idea (crowd laughs and applauds) I'll tell you what. I think our idea of what scares us changes as we get older. As a young person, one of the scariest things I ever read was Lord of the Flies. Because of the idea of those kids turning feral just scared the dickens outta me. Sometimes you get surprised into fright. When I picked up the Harry Potter books, I was not prepared for the depth of some of the frightening passages in there. Frankly, I was surprised by how scary the deatheaters were (crowd applauds) So there was plenty of scary stuff there. You know I've read a range of modern scary stuff. I try to keep up with the competitors (crowd laughs) The deatheaters - deatheaters are good.
JK Rowling: I scared Stephen King (crowd applauds)
Stephen King: You scared Stephen King. Yeah. I hope you're proud of yourself!
JK Rowling: Oh, I'm very proud of myself! Thank you yes I am! (crowd laughs)
Stephen King: You're on Soledad.
Soledad O'Brien: Next question. Debra Tire is from Mooresville, Indiana and her question is for John Irving. Go ahead Debra.
Debra Tire: Hello. Do you ever get so involved in a character's storyline that it affects your personal life?
John Irving: (crowd laughs at awkward silence) No. I'm thinking about the word storyline. No it's not the storyline that affects my personal life because as I said in an answer to a previous question, I know the story before I start writing so that's not the thing that affects me. Umm, what does affect my personal life is when I'm writing about things that are close enough reflections to my childhood, my adolescence, things that happened to me that cause me to recover memories I would prefer to have forgotten.
The two most difficult of my novels for me were A Son of the Circus and this last one, Until I find You but they were difficult for very different reasons and they affected my personal life for very different reasons. A Son of the Circus is the most complicated novel I've written and I hope it's the most complicated novel I'll ever write. It's complicated structurally. It begins i[ ?????] 200-page flashback (crowd laughs) I would not recommend this to my worst enemy.
It was a nightmarish book to keep track of. I'd never written a book where I had to begin every day by reading every previous word of the novel. That's what I had to do. I had to get right back up to where I was on page 465 and there was only one way to do it. It's a labyrinth that book and people who like those kinds of books like The Name of the Rose, that's their favorite of my books. It's also, my readers have told me, that's the one book of mine they can't read. It was almost the one book of mine I couldn't write.
So that really did get into my personal life for the five years I was writing it. The difficulties with Until I Find You were more personal. That it was my childhood, my adolescence, and as much as I thought I had waited long enough, and that I was old enough to deal with those things, I just remembered a lot of stuff that I would have been happier not to. Those were the two books that affected me personally.
Debra Tire: Thank you (crowd applauds).
Soledad O'Brien: Our next question is from Martha Hoover. She is from Pennsylvania and the question is for JK Rowling.
Martha Hoover: Good evening. Thank you. It has been an honor. This evening my question for you is, what is the one question your fans have never asked you, and should have? (crowd laughs and applauds).
JK Rowling: Oh, God (crowd laughs). How can I answer that? I can think of a couple of things that give away the ending of book seven (crowd laughs). Having got this far ... having got 16 years down the line, I kind of feel that would throw it away (crowd laughs). For me, anyway, having put the effort in. I think that I've been asked excellent questions, it's just that the final book contains a couple of pieces of information that I don't think you could guess at. So umm - I would umm - I'm sorry.
You see, people think that it's all so fixed in my head. It's not that obsessively plotted out. For example, this afternoon I believe I changed my mind on the title of book seven (crowd oohhs). Having been quite convinced that I had the title, I suddenly thought, "No, that would be better, wouldn't it?" in the shower just before coming out here, so - (crowd laughs).
But you know what, I'm not going to tell you either version, because I don't - (crowd groans). Oh, come on! Now really! Have I not given you enough? I gave you Aunt Petunia. I told you Dumbledore is really (Jo moves finger across neck). So, I am trying to give something to you. Anyway. I'm sorry. I suppose it's that question. Everyone's really pleased you asked that question. It's me who's let everyone down, not you. sorry (crowd sighs and applauds).
Soledad O'Brien: I'm going to pose the final question to you and I'd like all three of you to take a stab at it. You can do it in any order that you would like. If you were to have dinner with any five characters from any of your books -- take a moment to think about it -- who would you invite, and why would they be on your list? Any order.
Stephen King: Any five characters, from any of my books? Honey, I'm eating alone. No I mean ... you answer (points at JK Rowling).
John Irving: You could just invite all the dead ones and then they wouldn't come (crowd laughs).
Stephen King: I would eat with Harry, Hermione and Ron, and....
Soledad O'Brien: No, no, no. Your own books.
Stephen King: And Owen. I don't know. I can think of other people's characters I'd eat with. And I can think of other people's character's I'd eat (crowd laughs hysterically). Somebody else. Somebody else answer that.
John Irving: You go (referring to JK Rowling).
JK Rowling: Well I'd take Harry, to apologize to him (crowd laughs). Um, I'd have to take Harry, Ron and Hermione.
Stephen King: Sure.
JK Rowling: I would - this is - (crown shouts suggestions).
Stephen King: Hagrid, take Hagrid.
JK Rowling: See, I know who's actually dead.
Stephen King: Pretend you can take them anyways.
JK Rowling: Pretend I can take anyone? Well then I would definitely take Dumbledore. I'd take Dumbledore, Harry, Ron, Hermione...and.. (crowd shouts characters) um, Hagrid. I'd take Hagrid, yeah. And Owen because he wouldn't take up much space (crowd laughs).
John Irving: Well, I might invite Dr. Larch because he wouldn't eat much. He's too into ether you know. He'd be safe. Umm...Yes, I'd invite Owen Meany. Uhh...no question. Two characters are related in ways that you people who have read their books may not entirely understand and I uhh, I interrupted Until I Find You to write a much shorter and easier novel, The Fourth Hand and I was aware even as I was writing The Fourth Hand that Patrick Wallingford, the journalist who has is left hand bitten off by a lion at the beginning of the book was the kind of lightweight, less-harmful brother of Jack Burns. He was an easier-to-take Jack Burns, the main character of Until I Find You. The difference between Patrick and Jack is that I gave Jack the worst childhood I could think of and I didn't give Wallingford and childhood at all. So I wouldn't not want to have dinner with Jack Burns but Wallingford would be amusing if only to watch him eat with one hand (crowd laughs) And then I would have to include those three women I mentioned earlier, Melanie, Hester, and Emma who would probably burn the house down but I'd be interested in meeting them. (crowd applauds)
Soledad O'Brien: Thank you for your answers and thanks to all of you with your questions and thanks for a wonderful evening (crowd applauds)
Stephen King: And before you go, thanks also on behalf of Doctors Without Borders and on behalf of the Haven Foundation and on behalf of you guys who made this evening magic for us. Thank you. Thank you so much and good night.