John Irving has written some of the most acclaimed books of our time, from The World According to Garp to The Cider House Rules. Irving returns with The Last Chairlift, his first novel in seven years—a ghost story, a love story, and a lifetime of sexual politics, set between Colorado and New England.
Q&A with author and playwright Jeff Schwager.
This event has moved to an online-only format. Most tickets, with the exception of a limited number of Pay What You Can and complimentary tickets, include a copy of The Last Chairlift, mailed to the ticket holder’s door.
In Aspen, Colorado, in 1941, Rachel Brewster is a slalom skier at the National Downhill and Slalom Championships. Little Ray, as she is called, finishes nowhere near the podium, but she manages to get pregnant. Back home, in New England, Little Ray becomes a ski instructor.
Her son, Adam, grows up in a family that defies conventions and evades questions concerning the eventful past. Years later, looking for answers, Adam will go to Aspen. In the Hotel Jerome, where he was conceived, Adam will meet some ghosts; in The Last Chairlift, they aren’t the first or the last ghosts he sees.
Irving’s first novel, Setting Free the Bears, was published in 1968, when he was twenty-six. In the next five decades, thirteen more novels would follow. Irving, considered to be a visionary voice on the subject of sexual tolerance, frequently explores alternative family dynamics in his narratives.
In addition to his novels, Irving has also penned a number of other projects including personal memoirs, a screenplay (The Cider House Rules) for which he won an Oscar, as well as a children’s book entitled A Sound Like Someone Trying Not to Make a Sound.
Irving competed as a wrestler for twenty years, going on to coach the sport until he was forty-seven. John Irving is a dual citizen of Canada and the United States, and currently resides in Toronto.
Jeff Schwager, our Q&A moderator for the evening, is a Seattle-based writer, editor, producer, and playwright who has also had a successful career as an entertainment and media executive. Schwager has written extensively on books, movies, music, and theater, and has interviewed many of the most esteemed artists in each of those mediums. His book The Writer’s Library, co-written with Nancy Pearl, was published by HarperCollins in 2020, and features interviews with twenty-three of America’s most acclaimed authors. In 2013, Book-It Repertory Theatre produced his adaptation of Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son. The following year, the company’s five-hour stage version of his dramatization of Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay won Theatre Puget Sound’s prestigious Gregory Award for Outstanding Production of 2014.