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The Fourth Hand (book)

“The Fourth Hand” by John Irving

This book, and even more so this author, came highly recommended to me from both Drew and Keith. Let’s see how it panned out.

images/inline/fourthhand.jpg” align=”right”
title=”See his missing left hand in that picture?”

The Fourth Hand isn’t quite like other books I’ve read. I would say’it’s a book that plays all sides.

Side one = Comedy. At first, I was a little worried that this book would be merely an interesting fun read’that it would be too lighthearted, too farcical to really have any emotional effect on me. I thought it would be like, say, watching David Letterman or something. It’s mildly entertaining, but you could care less about it the next morning. However, it didn’t take long for some of these other sides to kick in. But the funny was still very much funny. There’s a scene where the protagonist is having sex with a younger girl who chews gum, and while she’s reaching orgasm, she begins to choke on the gum. Then, the protagonist (who is missing his left hand because it was bitten off by a tiger) punches her in the gut with his left non-hand stump, and her gum is propelled across the room and sticks to his clock. The next day, he buys a new clock because he can’t forget the gum every time he looked at the old one.

Side Two = Cleverness. The main character here is Patrick Wallingford, a television field reporter/anchorman. What happens is you meet a new character and get a short telling of his/her life story. Then the new character has some interaction with Patrick Wallingford. Then you meet a different new character, learn her life story, and get a different interaction with Patrick Wallingford. So you’re getting one life story after another after another of all these characters, but they all come back to and interact with Patrick. It’s very cleverly woven, you might say like a Seinfeld episode or something.

Side Three = Depth/Emotion. This is what saved the book from becoming merely an enjoyable read and made it into a really good book. There’s some very heartwarming love stories’between a dad trying to get his son to love him, Patrick trying to get a girl to love him, a maid trying to get her employer to love her, two or three different women who are trying desperately to get pregnant’anyway, they’re all very touching, and you want all the characters to succeed. There’s also Patrick’s identity crisis where, in the course of the book, he begins as a sort of spineless, selfless pretty boy who does whatever anyone else tells him to do (including having sex with dozens of women in the course of the book, all who love him because apparently he’s beautiful) but changes into a confident, sturdy, ambitious man, who marries one woman he loves and doesn’t sleep around.

Side Four = Boners. I could not help but notice, and I wonder, do other people notice too? Anyway, just about every chapter some one gets a ‘hard-on.’ Patrick, the doctor, the camera guys, maybe every man with a significant part in the book gets at least one hard on before the last page. Patrick Wallingford probably gets 15. Hard-ons here, hard-ons there, hard-ons at the lakehouse, hard-ons in hotel rooms, hard-ons on the phone…

images/inline/lionincage.jpg” align=”left” title=”I’ll eat your hand, man.”

In fact, one of my favorite parts and funniest parts of the book is this: There’s this woman whom Patrick is in love with, Doris. Doris is a reasonably attractive woman, but she has a unique characteristic’her voice is just unbelievably sexy. Her voice alone turns men to mush. And, in a hilarious scene, Doris ends up on the national news talking about her husbands tragic, accidental suicide. And, according to the book, while she was on the television, hundreds of thousands of men all across the country shared in a giant collective erection because of her lascivious voice, broadcast for them all to hear.

So when you read this book and love it, and you want to tell other people about it, tell them this: ‘The Fourth Hand is a great book with wonderful characters and very clever and charming storytelling. And, if that’s not enough, the book contains hundreds of thousands of erections. I recommend it.’ If that doesn’t get people reading the book, then I don’t know what will.



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