Books: A Sound Of One Hand Clapping

John Irving's new novel proves disappointing

A handsome American TV journalist named Patrick Wallingford is covering a story at the Great Ganesh Circus in Junagadh, India, when his left hand is chewed off by a famished lion. The accident, caught on tape and rebroadcast repeatedly by Wallingford's all-news cable network, makes the victim luridly famous and an object of sympathy to millions of female viewers. One of them, Doris Clausen of Green Bay, Wis., goes so far as to offer her husband Otto's left hand, in the event of his death, as a replacement for Wallingford's. Sure enough, Otto accidentally shoots himself dead on the night of...

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