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Lust, Death, and The Other Thing

  • May 24, 2010

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.

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More The World According to Garp reviews
review by . July 12, 2010
John Irving is the rare breed of a writer who began with some pretty good success critically.  His earliest works such as Setting Free the Bears, The 158 Pound Marriage and The Water Method Man actually opened up to critical success.  All of those books didn't exactly sell very well, however.  Rather they were quite unknown.  In 1978, John Irving published The World According to Garp and the result was a runaway bestseller.  It was a book that was filled to the brim …
Quick Tip by . June 25, 2010
There's a reason this book got Irving his fame. If you read nothing else by John Irving, make sure you get this one.
Quick Tip by . June 15, 2010
Quick Tip by . June 10, 2010
I could read this book over and over.
review by . July 05, 2009
Hilarious and serious at the same time, "The Word According to Garp" is among my top 10 favorite books. John Irving began writing it in the wake of the radical feminism of the early 1970's. Recently, Irving concluded that the book is about "a father's fears" but also acknowledges, "it had seemed at one time, when I was beginning the novel, that the polarization of the sexes was a dominant theme; the story was about men and women growing farther and farther apart." …
review by . May 24, 2009
The first time I experienced "Garp" was as a teenager in my friend Steve's basement, some five years after the novel's 1978 publication. Steve was telling me about that part in the story when Garp hits a car that happens to be occupied by his wife and her student lover. Many details of his account can not be shared on this public forum. I was agog.    "And then what happened?" I asked. Steve didn't really recall, except something about women with their tongues cut out. It was …
review by . January 04, 2001
I just love Garp - he is one of my favourite literary characters. His life, which he yearns to be boring and normal, is a reader's delight, from his unorthodox conception to the trials and tribulations of his marriage.But this book is not just about Garp, it is about finding the unusual in every day things, about rejoicing in sadness and about making the best of what you have. It is a truly delightful book, and I rank it just as highly as I do Irving's other great masterpiece "A Prayer for Owen …
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About this book


"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 ...

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ISBN-10: 0525237704 (hbk.)
ISBN-13: 9780525237709 (hbk.)
Publisher: Dutton Adult
Date Published: April 24, 1978
Format: 1st ed.
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