Publishing

IF LOOKS COULD KILL

John Irving glowers up a storm while promoting his new book

JOHN INTINI August 1 2005
Publishing

IF LOOKS COULD KILL

John Irving glowers up a storm while promoting his new book

JOHN INTINI August 1 2005

IF LOOKS COULD KILL

Publishing

John Irving glowers up a storm while promoting his new book

JOHN INTINI

JOHN IRVING SEEMS to have a thing for tank tops. During the past month or so, at the famous author’s cottage on Georgian Bay, he’s proudly shown off his writer’s shack to reporters and his lack of a farmer’s tan to photographers. It’s funny, but even at 63, he maintains his trademark glare—part of the fierce image he’s been perfecting since his literary debut in 1968 with Setting Free the Bears. “John Irving, like Coca-Cola, is a brand,” says Anne Sowden, who runs Toronto-based Here’s Looking At You Image Consulting. “He’s always been consistent with his look—which is a key when marketing yourself. I’d imagine it’s something he’s very much aware of.” So considering that his new novel, Until I Find You, includes a number of semi-autobiographical details— including the abuse of a pre-adolescent boy by an adult woman—it comes as no surprise that he’s upped the intensity during the recent media blitz. The photos splashed on the arts pages of major dailies and magazines all resemble each other—he looks more like a thug than a wealthy author. Even among the outtakes of some recent Irving photo shoots, it’s rare to see a smile soften that rugged face. When it does, it looks tortured. “He told me that he hates smiling in pictures,” says Andre Souroujon, who photographed Irving for Maclean’s (the middle shot). “It’s just not his thing. He’s a tough guy.” Not to mention a master of the publicity game. In photos, with his arms often clenched tightly across his chest—a body language expert might wonder which secrets didn’t make his new, 820-page tome—Irving is simply maintaining his ferocious image. “He wouldn’t be comfortable posing in a three-piece suit with a toothy grin,” says Sowden, adding with a laugh: “Does he even have teeth?” No doubt they’re clenched too.

ON THE WEB For more coverage of John Irving’s new book, visit www.macleans.ca/johnirving