John Winslow Irving

Apparently no one ever told you that as a writer you could have literary stature or worldwide popularity, but not both. Nor could you win a National Book Award and an Oscar. You were supposed to pick. Somehow you have managed to break all of these strictures. Each of your works arrives on the bestseller list with its bags packed for a long stay. You have been translated into more than 30 languages. Five of the novels have been made into films, including The Cider House Rules, for which you wrote the award-winning screenplay. You also re-wrote the rulebook of style. With prose full of realistic settings, tons of plot, and themes that resonate with the politics of the day, you read like Dickens, if Dickens had wrestled at Exeter. At the same time you have invoked the fabulous—the uncanny—presaging the movement that melded realism and magic. You advanced the attention of fiction on characters who live on the margins of their worlds. You have made us laugh at what is sad, and have helped us to see that family need not always mean what it used to. Genius, it is said, is knowing when to break rules, and at that you have been the master.

I hereby declare you recipient of the honorary degree Doctor of Letters, entitled to all the rights, honors, and privileges appertaining thereto.

June 3, 2018