John Irving and Larry McCaffery meet in a restaurant and discuss fiction in general and Irving’s fiction specifically over lunch. The interview begins with a discussion of autobiographical fiction which Irving had been professed to disdain. Irving explains that much of writing is autobiographical in nature but that doesn’t mean it has to be true to real life (and gives, in an example strikingly similar to Samuel Delany’s response on the same question four years later, that the worst writing he sees from his students are the parts where the student claims it comes straight from real life). Irving mentions that the problem with autobiography in fiction is when readers look to the fiction to discover the writer’s biography. Irving notes that it’s to a writer’s advantage to lead an un-interesting life or your self-importance will override your writing. He comments, “Most autobiographical fiction is tyrannized by how much our unhappiness means to us. This unhappiness becomes an indulgence in our fiction.” The discussion then ranges from being a writing student (Irving notes that can save a young writer time by learning their own habits), the current world of fiction (which Irving mostly avoids, though noting his admiration for Gunter Grass) and the way that critics approach fiction. Much of the discussion focuses around the popularity of Irving’s most recent novel, The World According to Garp and its immense popularity and if anything has changed now that he is a “popular” writer. The majority of the interview is published, in slightly edited form, on pages 177 to 191 of Anything Can Happen: Interviews with Contemporary American Novelists, ed. Tom LeClair and Larry McCaffery, University of Illinois Press, 1983. The remainder of the interview was re-created by Irving asking himself the questions and the answers due to ones of the tapes of the interview having been stolen.