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The World According to Garp (Ballantine Reader's Circle) Paperback – June 23, 1997
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Irving packs wild characters and weird events into his classic--officially recognized as such in a Modern Library edition with a new introduction by the author--while amazingly maintaining the rough feel of realism in every scene and the pulse of life in every heart. Many novelists of his time might have populated a novel with a novelist protagonist whose life and books comment on each other and the novel we're reading. Transsexual football players, ball turret gunners lobotomized in battle, multiple adultery, unicycling bears, mad feminists who amputate their tongues in sympathy with the celebrated victim of a horrifying rape--Irving made them all people. Even the bear is a fitting character.
In a crucial episode, Garp's wife's seduction of a young man coincidentally occurs at the moment when Garp is delighting their young sons with a reckless car trick (one of the few scenes beautifully, eerily, heartbreakingly captured in the film version as well). Many authors would have been content with the harsh comedy of the scene, but Irving respects its integrity, and he builds the rest of the book on the consequences of the event. How does he get away with his killer cocktail of slapstick and horror? Because it's simply what we all face daily, rearranged into soul-satisfying art. "Life is an X-rated soap opera," according to Garp, and who can contradict him?
Rereading Garp 20 years later, one is struck by how elegantly Irving structures his bizarre and complex story. Take the two most celebrated bits in the book, the Under Toad and Garp's story "The Pension Grillparzer," which shimmers like an exquisite Kafkaesque insect in the amber of the novel. When Garp warns his son about the "undertow" at the beach, the boy imagines a monster out of Beowulf who lurks beneath the waves to suck you under: the "Under Toad." It's funny at first, but we soon find that the Under Toad is a metaphor with teeth--he connects with a prophetic dream of death in "The Pension Grillparzer," set in Vienna. Garp's son's last words are, "It's like a dream!" And as Irving--who studied at the University of Vienna--can certainly tell you, the German word for "death" sounds precisely like the English word "toad."
All that death, and yet Garp is mainly exuberant. This story is, as Garp's stuttering writing teacher puts it, "rich with lu-lu-lunacy and sorrow." It enriches literature, and our lives. --Tim Appelo --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Library Journal
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
In the many times I have reread GARP since, I have never failed to be struck dumb by the sheer elegance and beauty, not to mention brutality, of John Irving's novel. While Irving's writing have too often been described as 'Dickensian', it is truly an accurate summation. Irving presents a family saga rife with bizarre yet realistic characters, all swirling around what very well may the finest character put to paper in the 20th century, T.S. Garp.
Garp is the bastard son (there's that word again) of Jenny Fields, a sometimes nurse and headmistress, who doesn't believe in anyone but herself, and her son. As Garp matures, finding success as an author, Jenny inadvertently eclipses his fame with her own autobiography, which catapults her to the forefront of the feminist movement.
I won't say more about the plot, because nothing else would suffice. To try and describe it any further might inadvertently gloss over the innumerable circumstances that make up Garp's life.Read more ›
Irving's title character is forced to deal with these issues. In this way, Garp is somehow universal. We all go through trials of one kind or another. Even if we disagree with Garp's decisions, we can understand the struggle that living often is. Garp's life is no picnic. But it rarely ever is.
The World According to Garp is the capstone to Irving's three previous novels (Setting Free the Bears, The Water Method Man, and The 158 Pound Marriage). All the themes in Garp can be found (to a degree) scattered through the three earlier stories. The big leap from the first three books to the fourth one is in Irving's plot twisting ability. Garp is nothing if not well twisted.
The character of Garp comes into the world in bizarre circumstances. From there, his life only becomes stranger and stranger. Lust, the thing his mother most misunderstands, dictates much in his life. Misinterpretation (by Garp and those around him) also greatly influences Garp's path. Irving acknowledges that life is rarely black and white. Those characters who come to see it as such do so with their heads in the metaphorical sand. Perhaps this is what most enrages the more rabid critics of this book.
The more of Irving's books I read, the more I have come to believe that Irving is the greatest living American author. Though I often disagree with what he writes (he seems to offend people of all ideologies), his skill as an author and storyteller is undeniable. I would put him neck and neck with A.S. Byatt as the greatest living author period.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I'm glad I read this book and I will not forget it- it has some serious surprises. It was a great book club choice, as it spurred a lot of conversation about fidelity, growing... Read morePublished 1 month ago by GA to NJ
John Irving is one of my favorite authors. His work is intriguing and makes you think and see things from a different perspective. cant wait to see the movie.Published 3 months ago by Stephanie M.
I didn't really like The World According to Garp. It didn't have a plot, it just kind of meandered from here to there, and I found it pretty boring. And way too long. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Lindsey Beech
I've always wanted to read an Irving novel & although I enjoyed it & based on this book he's a good writer but it just didn't have that "wow" factor. Read morePublished 4 months ago by James Montgomery
I've loved this book (since I was 13) for most of my life!!! Its as important a book as "Catcher In The Rye"Published 4 months ago by M. M.