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The World According to Garp Mass Market Paperback – November 3, 1990
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"Garp was a natural storyteller," says the narrator of John Irving's incandescent novel, referring to the book's hero, the novelist Garp, who has much in common with Irving himself. "He could make things up one right after the other, and they seemed to fit."
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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
"In the world according to Garp, we're all terminal cases." This sentence ends both Irving's comic and tragic novel and its wonderful audio adaptation, read disarmingly by Michael Prichard. We hear the familiar story of T.S. Garp; his mother, Jenny Fields; and Garp's wife, family, friends, and lovers. We also see Garp's efforts to establish himself as a serious author and his involvement in sexual politics. In contrast, Jenny's memoirs establish her as a feminist leader. This work is funny, sexual, serious, and sad. Prichard's narration adds a wonderful dimension to the story. Plus, Irving opens with a terrific introduction to mark the novel's 20th anniversary. This wise and unique tale is as fresh today as it was when first published in 1978. Obviously, a required purchase for all audio collections and required listening for all Irving fans. Irving's (A Son of the Circus, Audio Reviews, LJ 12/94) new novel echoes Garp through tracing the complicated life of novelist Ruth Cole. Divided into three parts, the book views Ruth's life and relationships at age four in 1958, age 36 in 1990, and age 41 in 1995. In the first part, Ruth's mother, devastated by the loss of two sons, leaves her daughter and womanizing husband after a brief love affair with a teenage boy. Part 2 focuses on Ruth's book tour in Europe while coming to grips with a poor love life and considering marriage to an older man. Part 3 traces Ruth's short widowhood and her marriage to the Dutch policeman who solves the murder to which she was a witness. Like Garp, this is a complex, sad, and quite compelling tale. Narrator George Guidall's reading adds to the texture of the story. And like the audio adaptation of Garp, this wonderful novel is a required purchase for all audio collections.?Stephen L. Hupp, Univ. of Pittsburgh at Johnstown Lib., PA
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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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. Already, many single scenes come flooding back to memory: Garp, as a child, stranded precariously on the roof of a dormitory, trying to find a pigeon; Garp as a teen, experiencing his first sexual encounter, as well as a more fierce encounter with a large black dog named Bonkers; Garp (in arguably the most haunting moment) turning off his car's engine and quietly gliding up his driveway in the dark, as his son whispers, "It's like a dream!"
Irving's other characters run the gamut, from odorific professors to brain-dead war heroes. There's Roberta Muldoon, a former linebacker-turned-transexual; Ellen James, the tragic and unwanting figurehead of a truly weird cult; and Poo, the sister of one of Garp's first girlfriends. Irving weaves his characters and situations together in a breathtaking dance. And despite the dance's immense complexity, he never once loses his step.
Irving has also become famous (justifiably so) for a story Garp pens within the novel, THE PENSION GRILLPARZER. While this story is terrific, it has overshadowed the rest of Garp's work found within the pages of the novel. Irving performs a neat trick, in that Garp's style of writing, while similar to Irving's, is not exactly the same. Irving writes from Garp's viewpoint, ensuring that Garp has a voice of his own. While GRILLPARZER is famous, an excerpt from one of Garp's later novels is equally memorable. In the story, a young housewife is raped, while a police officer tracks the rapist down. While it feels like an Irving novel, it also doesn't; it is far nastier and more grotesque than anything else Irving has written. It is not Irving's story, it is Garp's, providing a telling glimpse into Garp's anguished soul.
GARP is a tragedy, with funny parts. It is a comedy, with heart-wrenching moments. It is riotously funny, and crushingly moving. It is a story of writers, and insanity, and adultry, and terminal cases. Like the best novels, it displays the entire life of an individual the reader would not otherwise get to know. It presents you with places you want to see, and people you wouldn't mind sharing a beer with. It is Irving's best work, and a landmark in American literature.
We follow Garp from his conception until late adulthood with all the triumphs and tragedies along the way. This is very funny and even the tragic parts are so over the top that I laughed. The penalty his wife's lover pays is a high point. He pays a terrible price!
Several good shots by Irving at modern society with his mad feminists who have cut out their tongues in a supposed show of "solidarity"with a young rape victim who suffers this fate.
Then there is the uni-cycling bear and short novels within a novel.
This is outstanding, I was entertained from start to finish.
Of the parents who will read 'The World According to Garp,' I have only one thing to say: you will relate. John Irving describes the parental condition better than anyone I've ever read, and does it with honesty and accuracy. Instead of coming across as maudlin and overly-sentimental, it is simply brilliant and funny and hysterical. And, of course, it is tragic, because *parenting* is tragic in so many ways.
Of the non-parents who read the book, you will also relate because Garp and his mother and all of the characters in the novel are like the rest of us...full of fears and desires, and acting upon those fears and desires come what may. As in life, sometimes there is no reason why.
Irving's 'Garp' is human; it is a novel messy with and full of *being* human. If someone should ask me what the book is about, that is what I would say, that "it's about being human." This novel does best what every novel strives to do: it makes you turn the page because you have to know what happens next. I envy those of you who have not read 'The World According to Garp.'