This novel is one of those odd mixtures of pleasure and pain: pleasure at the rhythm and cadence of it, the sheer writerliness of the words; pain at the subject matter. Where I must marvel here is how successfully Price is making me like Blue Calhoun despite his deep folly. Where Updike's Rabbit Angstrom thoroughly turned me off, Blue Calhoun has me at least interested in his well-being even if I cannot agree with his choices. And though I don't buy the whole notion of fate or some other uncontrollable driving force, I believe that Blue believes it. I like his honesty even though I don't like the callous realities his honesty reveals.
Like this about being a "dry drunk" from pp. 175-176:
Worst of all, though your mind is straight, most of the time you can't even see the people around you - especially the close ones, your wife and children. You plow right through them like they're clear glass; then they break, to your amazement. And if they're too strong to let you through, they either crack or hate your shadow the rest of your life.
I also like this part where Blue recognizes the truth of Myra's love (and recognizes his own lack in this department):
You can give a person all your life and not be hungry or bitter or broke - not ever, right on, far as you go. For that long moment it seemed so fine, so far past me and my pitiful reach, that it cored me out dead hollow again. (236-237)
The problem, of course, is that of John Irving. Here we have an interesting, complex, finely-drawn character whose actions are unthinkable. Where do you put the truth about this man and his destructive relationship with a 17-year-old abuse victim? I have no context within which to place it.