John Irving is brilliant, and brings another wild cast of colorful characters to 'Garp'. T.S Garp (no, the "T.S." doesn't stand for anything) is the illegitimate son of a feminist nurse, Jenny, whos views on men, sexuality, and especially lust are rather bleak, to say the least. The story chronicles their lives together, then moves on with Garp as he begins his own family. Jenny is ever-near, and Garp's family goes well beyond the biological, eventually including a transsexual ex-football star, John Wolf the publisher, and a young girl without a tongue.
Garp is a writer, has always been a writer, and while we follow his struggle to produce solid non-autobiographical pieces, it is his struggles as a father that are limelighted. His marriage undergoes its share of turbulence, but it is easily distinguished (perhaps especially in his more autobiographical-esque works) that Garp is first and foremost an anxious father.
Death and the "Under Toad" (a child's confusion with the undertow of the current and a giant toad resting at the bottom of the lake) run deep through the book as well as through Garp's writing, almost insatiably.
Irving writes wonderfully, as always, and the plot travels through an abundance of topics, some in line with Irving's other works (bears, wrestling and Vienna, to name a few). At times even uncomfortable to read, it'sabsurd and playful; it's wistful and musing. Irving immerses the reader in a world so beautifully detailed and filled to the brim with life and death and irreplaceable characters; it is possibly most rewarding in the brief moments you realize it's not so very different from your own world.
To quote John Wolf's rightfully overpaid cleaning lady, in response to Why would you want to read it again? "A book feels true when it feels true. A book's true when you can say 'Yeah! That's just how damn people behave all the time.' Then you know it's true."
Definitely one to pick up and read again and again.
What did you think of this review?
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 ...