Favorite Things: Scott Pohl and his signed John Irving novel

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Scott Pohl is a retired reporter and host with the WKAR radio station. He fell in love with John Irving’s novel “A Prayer For Owen Meany,” and later met the author at a reception. His signed copy of the book is his absolute favorite thing. 

John Irving is my favorite author, and “A Prayer For Owen Meany” is my favorite book. He came to MSU to do a lecture at the Wharton Center; it had to be in the ’90s at some point. I did a telephone interview with him prior to his trip to East Lansing and told him how much I loved the book. My wife and I got invited to a reception after his lecture. The one thing that the organizers of this reception told me was, “Irving doesn’t like these events turning into a big line of people getting autographs, please don’t bring a book for him to autograph.”

I purposely did not bring the book, and of course there’s a table of his books that they’re selling and people are walking up to him to get autographs. When my wife and I approached him, I told him, “I could buy a copy of ‘Owen Meany,’ but it would mean a lot to me if you signed my personal copy.” 

I specifically took that copy on my honeymoon, rather than take a new book I hadn’t already read before. I wanted to take my favorite book with me. I told him, “This book has gone on my honeymoon with me and traveled all over with me, but I didn’t bring it with me because I was told not to.”

As I recall, he was certainly simpatico with my wanting of a personal copy being signed rather than a new one. One of us, whether it was him or me I don’t remember, suggested mailing it to him. So I mailed it to a post office box with a return envelope, not knowing if I would ever see it again. But he did sign it and return it, so that’s how I got it. 

It’s quite emotional and very funny in places. The first time I read it, I was already a fan of John Irving; I had read all of his books. When “Owen Meany” was published, I read it onto tape for the WKAR Radio Reading service. It took me 28 hours, because I could only read in 20-minute chunks. 

In the book, Owen Meany has a premonition of his own death, and within the last 10 pages it doesn’t seem possible; he’s wrong. But then it happens. And everything about his premonition was true. When I read it out loud, I had tears streaming down my face. To me, it’s the great American novel. 

Interview edited and condensed by Skyler Ashley. If you have a suggestion for Favorite Things, please email Skyler@Lansingcitypulse.com

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