By REBECCA KOLIMAGA
Author John Irving creates a plot that forces the readers to interpret the details. The Water-Method Man features Fred Thumper, an intellectual but unfortunate man with a painful birth defect that turned his urinary track into a “narrow, winding road.” The novel follows a sporadic timeline that switches between the first and third person. Thumper is commonly known as Bogus, for his extensive stretching of truths, but also goes by Thump-Thump and Boggle.
Bogus’ wife, Biggie, is a German Olympic skier known for her large bosom. Biggie’s gynecologist recommended Bogus see a urologist pertaining to his life-long painful urination. The urologist presents Bogus with three options: undergo a surgical procedure, abstain from alcohol and sexual intercourse or drink an excessive amount of water before and after sexual intercourse. Bogus chooses the last option.
After impregnating Biggie, Bogus marries her and their son, Colm, is born. The novel begins when Colm is a young child of an undisclosed age. The characters are nondescript until the character of Risky Mouse, as it was dubbed by Bogus. Every night, Biggie set a trap for a mouse and every night Bogus would spring the trap before the mouse could get near it. Although Bogus’ and Biggie’s characters begin to form, Bogus is the only dynamic character throughout the novel. The excessive amount of bland characters diminishes Irving’s professionalism.
Irving utilizes his sense of humor when Bogus’ fidelity is tested once a young fellow scholar takes him into a secluded, wooded area for a dinner and seduction. After disrobing, Bogus changes his mind and exits the vehicle. The offended and embarrassed woman locks the doors and drives away, deserting Bogus. Bogus begins to take a shortcut to the road through a pond that contains concealed barbwire from a fallen fence.
Upon returning home, Bogus sneaks into his basement to clean his bloodied and lacerated feet as to not frighten his wife and son. While in the basement, he steps into Risky Mouse’s trap. Bogus reflects, “I looked at the bruised toes on one foot and though, At least it wasn’t your neck, Risky Mouse.” The dry humor is the most appealing element of this novel. This is Irving’s second novel so the plot and character developments are lacking, but his humor and irony are fortunately steadfast.
Bogus’ character isn’t fully developed until the climax of the plot when he suddenly leaves Biggie and Colm for Europe. With no word or explanation for six months, Biggie divorces him. Bogus goes to Vienna in search of his diabetic, childhood friend, Merrill Overturf.
During his stay, he accidently comes into possession of an illegal substance, fails to help a federal agent solicit a drug dealer, is given $1,000 for his efforts and is flown back to New York. At this point, the novel is vague, confusing and seemingly out of focus. Irving rambles, explaining useless points and ignoring the important factors.
Bogus’ character becomes clearly defined when he returns home to find his wife married to his friend, Couth. He realizes that it is in his family’s best interest to allow them to be happy with Couth. His subtle acceptance is both appalling and illogical. Bogus is simply passive when he learns about his new familial situation.
When the water-method fails to relieve Bogus’ symptoms, he decides to undergo a surgery to widen his urethra. Irving fails to reference the significance of Bogus’ condition or even mention it throughout the most of the novel. Since Bogus doesn’t stick with the water-method, The Water-Method Man is an odd title for this novel.
Tulpen and Bogus conceive a child at almost the exact same time as Couth and Biggie. In the end, Biggie, Couth, Colm, their newborn and Tulpen, Bogus and their newborn are living, or rather cohabitating, in a beachside house.
Irving has a unique talent of utilizing vulgarity, humor and free will in his writing techniques. He makes unconventional and seemingly unrealistic actions and events seem not only plausible but also logical. All of his characters, excluding Bogus, in The Water-Method Man, are static, uninteresting and relatively unnecessary. The hilarity of the characters’ nicknames is the only interesting thing about them. The plot is subtle enough so the drama is exemplified and the reader must extrapolate the majority of the plot.