Do you ever come across someone who is so good at something that it makes you realize how awful you would be at it? A person who just raised the bar so high that no matter how much you practice your Fosbury impersonation, you know you'll never pass over it?
John Irving is like that to me. I get a story in my head, and then I read one of his books and realize how much better the story would be in J.I. penned it. Then I get sad. Susanna Clarke also had this effect on me, albeit her repertoire is much more limited than Mr. Irving's.
I guess it's much like when I used to think I could play baseball well, until I played with people who could actually play well. Sure I tried to get better. I still love the game, and I can hit the hell out of a pitching machine, but I know if I took the field with someone with real talent, I would be tempted to put my bat back in the hall closet where it now resides full time.
Currently I am reading A Son of the Circus. Half way through and I think that every paragraph is as good as it could be, and they are all very good.
So, I guess I should thank John Irving for showing me what can be done with words, and curse him for bringing to light exactly how much better he is than I.