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The Fourth Hand [Hardcover]

John Irving
2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (195 customer reviews)

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4.0 out of 5 stars Another First Class Effort Aug. 20 2002
Format:Audio CD
Ever since "The World According to Garp," John Irving has been one of my favorite philosophers. His work in "The Fourth Hand" has not caused me to change my mind. Irving's ability to create funny and three-dimensional characters, while making thoughtful commentary on the human condition, is unparalleled in modern literature. Patrick Wallingford, Irving's mutilated protagonist, is a shallow, womanizing pretty-boy who, nevertheless, grows as a person before our eyes. The woman who becomes the love of his life, Doris Clausen, is good hearted and sexy, but preternaturally weird.
Nobody does set pieces that are both funny and poignant, and full of both bitterness and love, than Irving. He does it again here. His description of Wallingford's tryst with a gum-chewing makeup girl, and its attendant complications, is worth the price of the book. Irving's side of the mouth dismissal of cable news as shallow, callous, insincere, and intrusive is right on the mark, too, it seems to me.
Irving's usual devices, maiming, violent death, the love of a child, wild animals (lions this time, not bears) and circuses are in evidence here. Nobody understands the chaos that is life better than Irving, but his optimism and his obvious love for his characters make that recognition fun and instructive, not off-putting.
I heard this book on tape. Jason Culp, who reads this audio book is very effective. Finally, I give this Irving outing 4 stars out of 5 instead of 5 out of 5 only because of his obsession with Wallingford's hand. Although Irving has used traumatic amputations in other books, they have never before been the central theme of any one of them, as is the case in "The Fourth Hand." In fact, it is for this reason that I (uncharacteristically for a John Irving novel) waited as long as I did to read it. I highly recommended it, anyway.
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4.0 out of 5 stars one hand clapping! June 12 2002
By jedbird
Format:Audio Cassette
First, my review is of the unabridged audiocassette and ONLY the cassette version. I have a feeling I would have hated this had I tried to read it myself. In the middle of a hurried cross-country road trip, I had to choose between this and a bunch of self-help twaddle and this seemed the lesser evil, despite Mr. Irving's often self-consciously quirky output.
As it turned out, I loved having this story read to me. I loved the voice of the narrator and particularly his interpretation of Doris Clausen's Middle American tones. There are many (MANY) points in the story where I would have been compelled to put a book down forcefully, never to be picked up again, had I actually been reading it. However, instead of yanking the cassette out of the player and hurling it out onto the highway, I laughed. I ENJOYED myself. This book is chock full of situations just as smugly and predictably unpredictable as the worst of Mr. Irving's MANY authorial excesses, but it just doesn't hurt a bit when you don't have to read it yourself. Through the voice of Mr. Culp, what I am sure is a mediocre, self-conscious, meandering mess on paper is magically transformed into light, charming entertainment with a touch of real pathos.
Once the road trip was over, I saw the paperback of _Widow For One Year_ and thought I'd give actually reading Mr. Irving another try. I got about 4 pages into it before abandoning it. I liked _Owen Meany_ and _Garp_ and _Cider House_ - you know, his GOOD books. _Fourth Hand_ is probably not one of the good books, but it makes a delightful traveling companion nonetheless.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not as intriguing as the others March 31 2002
The Fourth Hand is certainly a work by John Irving. It has a main character who has peculiarities and who lives in an atmosphere of oddities. Patrick Wallingford works for an all-news network, which devotes its time to stories that have a peculiar twist. This kind of reporting is dehmunanizing and it dehumanizes Patrick. Then he becomes a subject himselfwhile covering a story in India, he loses his hand to a lion. This is typically Irving. His characters all experience these types of events. The loss of his hand leads to all sorts of attention, including the amorous advances of a Green Bay Packer widow, who wants to donate her husband's hand to him.
Wallingford has had an unsuccessful marriage and numerous relationships with women, mostly initiated by them. He is used to this kind of attention, so he does not grow up emotionally. But for the widow, he seems to experience some personal and professional growth.
Unfortunately, the plot simply is not that interesting. It is hard to connect with this character. He is neither admirable nor a complete jerk. I suppose that is Irving's way of portraying Everyman. At any rate the plot crawls along in a ho-hum pace and ends enigmatically, but hopefully. This is not a work like Garp or Cider House Rules and disappoints.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Deal Me Out Feb. 20 2002
"The Fourth Hand" is a serio-comic novel about a TV journalist who has his left-hand chewed off by a lion, but as far as the book's literary merits are concerned, it may as well have been author John Irving's writing hand. Irving's novel is so unimpressive, befuddled, inchoate and ultimately instantly forgettable, that one could hardly believe it was penned by the same author that brought forth such literary joys as "The World According to Garp", "The Hotel New Hampshire" and "The Cider House Rules". Patrick Wallingford is a correspondent for a 24-hour news outlet known pejoratively as the "disaster network" because of its overriding interest in sensationalist, if-it-bleeds-it-leads info-tainment. He loses his left hand when he unwisely sticks his microphone into a hungry lion's cage while covering the story of an acrobat's death in an Indian circus. What we also learn about the hapless journalist is that he is wildly successful with women -not that he aggreesively pursues them- but because they find the combination of his unassuming good looks and passivity irresistible. An idiosyncratic Boston hand surgeon, Nathaniel Zajac also finds Wallingford desirable for another reasons: he hopes to achieve fame by making him the recipient of the world's first successful hand transplant. Enter Doris Clausen of Green Bay, Wisconsin, a die-hard Packers fan, who for some puzzling reason gets her husband, Otto, to agree to donate his hand for the operation, in the evnt of his timely demise. Irving then contrives to have Otto accidentally shoot himself to death.Braely before his hand is cold, Doris seizes on the opportunity to get it to Dr. Zajak, and simultaneously use Wallingford to fulfill her burning desire to become pregnant. Poor late hubby Otto apparently was firing blanks. Read more ›
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars The Fourth Hand
Great weekend read. Can't take the book seriously, it is definitely "tongue-in-cheek" humour. My first John Irving novel and I can't wait to read another one.
Published on Feb. 6 2006 by Lee-Ann
1.0 out of 5 stars Give That Man A Hand--NOT!
This book clinches it -- John Irving is very overrated. This book was mildly entertaining at first but quickly became tedious, irritating, and a waste of time to read. Read more
Published on Oct. 5 2003
3.0 out of 5 stars Extremely Weak.
This book could certainly win the 'Write a Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan romantic comedy in the style of a John Irving novel.' competition, but other than that couldn't win anything. Read more
Published on June 18 2003 by James Frohnhofer
3.0 out of 5 stars better than some, not as good as others
this book was good but it didn't knock my socks off. mr irving is one of my favorite writers but this novel seemed like it was rushed to the printers. Read more
Published on June 5 2002 by tim camas
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun, but not Irving's best
At a mere 300-some pages, this feels like a short story from Irving. It didn't have the broad sweep of the history of the world that is so characteristic of Irving's works from... Read more
Published on May 10 2002
1.0 out of 5 stars What a load of rubbish .....................
This is quite clearly the worse book I have ever read. Was this some sort of joke or was Irving also high on the drug that was administered to the main character when he lost his... Read more
Published on April 29 2002 by "capricornlady"
4.0 out of 5 stars Dear John
Dear John, - Strange, but excellent writing (as usual)...You've given me so much to think about: the role of the press (TV_CNN) in our society; the meaning of marriage, sex, love;... Read more
Published on April 28 2002 by Elizabeth Harvey
I can't believe how bad this book was! It was so painful for me to read it. I've read every single John Irving book, and this book was so bad that I will no longer read another... Read more
Published on April 20 2002 by N. Cho
3.0 out of 5 stars I am looking for the meaning
I am sure that there is some wonderful message that I should have gotten from this book, but I still don't get it.
Published on March 26 2002
2.0 out of 5 stars Stop After You Read "A Widow for One Year"
If only John Irving had hung up his pen after he wrote "A Widow for One Year." Irving claims this book attempts to answer a question about dreams - how do you know when... Read more
Published on March 14 2002 by Trust Me
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