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The World According to Garp [Paperback]

John Irving
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (242 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 7 2000 0676973825 978-0676973822 Vintage Canada ed
This is the life and times of T. S. Garp, the bastard son of Jenny Fields — a feminist leader ahead of her times. This is the life and death of a famous mother and her almost-famous son; theirs is a world of sexual extremes — even of sexual assassinations. It is a novel rich with "lunacy and sorrow"; yet the dark, violent events of the story do not undermine a comedy both ribald and robust. In more than thirty languages, in more than forty countries — with more than ten million copies in print — this novel provides almost cheerful, even hilarious evidence of its famous last line: "In the world according to Garp, we are all terminal cases."

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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 the Hardcover edition.

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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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't Miss It! June 11 2005
By Laurie
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Garp hooks you right from the start, when you meet his fiercely independent-minded mother, Jenny Fields, a nurse who slashes a leering soldier in a movie theater in the WWII era. Poor Jenny has no interest whatsoever in men (she is not gay...she just has no sexual interest in anyone). But the irony is, her wealthy, conservative family believes that she is rutting like a rabbit.
Jenny may not be promiscuous, but she definitely has some unconventional ideas. She wants a baby, but does not want to become involved with a man to get one. Since artificial insemination was not yet mainstream in the 1940s, she finds a vegetative soldier with whom to perform her insemination.

T. S. Garp is the result (he has no first name, just initials, in honor of the fact that his father was a Technical Sergeant). Most of the story is his, but Jenny still plays a prominent role throughout. Garp's life is unconventional, and that's putting it mildly. I won't go into detail, because I don't want to ruin the delight of reading the book and discovering it for yourself.
It becomes even more confusing when Jenny writes a book called "A Sexual Suspect," detailing her unusual life and views. It becomes a best seller, and now Garp not only knows the truth about how he was conceived, but everyone else in America knows too because the book is a best seller.
Garp is surrounded with an entertaining (and sometimes frightening) cast of supporting characters, including his wife Helen, the snobbish Percy family whose members go by nicknames such as "Cushie" and "Pooh" (his intimate relationship with one member will play a major role in his undoing at the hands of another), the horny neighbor "Mrs.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The best Feb. 10 2005
By J.Jones
Format:Mass Market Paperback
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP by John Irving, is the story of an ordinary man with an extraordinary life. This man is T. S. Garp, illegitimate son of famous feminist Jenny Fields and Technical Sergeant Garp (hence the 'T. S.'), a severely wounded American soldier. Before Ms. Fields was famous, she was a feminist by nature, and though she wished to have a child, she did not wish to have any sort of relationship with a man. So when Technical Sergeant Garp is brought into the hospital where she works as a nurse with shrapnel in his brain, Jenny realizes that she has found the perfect father for her son. The rest of the story is as amazing as the manner in which Garp is conceived. It chronicles his life as a struggling writer living in the shadow of his mother's fame. The only true immortality is the written word in "The World According to Garp." Garp spends most of the novel attempting to write his classic, the book that will make him famous and thus immortal. I was reminded at time of the work of Jackson McCrae, especially his BARK OF THE DOGWOOD or his CHILDREN'S CORNER --the writing is just that good, deep, and well constructed. Irving helps convey the theme to the readers by constantly using foreshadowing. There is little that happens in this novel that the reader does not have at least a slight inkling about prior to its occurrence. Whereas with other authors this may have made the story boring and predictable, Irving utilizes this element in a way that keeps the reader guessing, occasionally hinting at things that do not actually happen or things unrelated to the main story. Overall, the theme is expressed clearly but not blatantly.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful But Unlikely Story April 9 2004
By JMack
Format:Mass Market Paperback
John Irving is a very thorough and gifted storyteller. I had familiarity with some of his previous work, but only recently discovered "The World According to Garp". In reality, the story does not have a real life lesson or moral. It is just an interesting and entertaining tale about a strange life. As odd and unlikely as many of the characters may seem, one must suspend disbelief and be entertained.
T. S. Garp seemed to doomed to live an abnormal life. Even the manner in which he we conceived is odd to the point where it is not believable. Garp grows up without a father and a mother who describes herself as a "sexual suspect" because she is an unwed mother. Garp grows to maturity at the all boys school which his life seems to revolve around. In his childhood, his mother is a nurse. Through his mother's life, she compiles interesting tales that compile her book. This book makes the reluctant head of the women's liberation movement and vulnerable to radical groups like the ficticious Ellen Jamesians. The alignment with the feminist movements leads to the eventual demise of both Garp and his mother. Along the way, we an interesting cast of charaters. Roberta is the best friend to Jenny Fields, Garp's mother. However, Roberta was once known as Robert or #90. In fact, she once played Tight End in the NFL. Garp also becomes closely associate with Ellen James, the reluctant martyr of a feminist group who cut out their own tongues.
Despite an obvious shadow cast by his mother, Garp's goal in life is to become a successful writer. He does finish three stories. All of these stories are included in the book. Each of the stories give a little into Garp's character. The first two stories are a little drab. However, the third story is actually well done.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I picked up THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP not knowing what to expect. After just a few pages, I found myself unable to put it down. The characters came to life for me. Read more
Published on March 23 2007 by Waddleforth
5.0 out of 5 stars EXCELLENT!
To be honest, this book was my first one of John Irving's, but i must say: IT WON'T BE THE LAST! John Irving pulls you into this book of loves, lusts, and life. Read more
Published on July 19 2004 by "petkov"
5.0 out of 5 stars An Irving Classic
This book (like all of Irving's, possibly with the exception of The Fourth Hand), is phenomenal. Not only was this book captivating, but it also had me laughing out loud. Read more
Published on July 8 2004
2.0 out of 5 stars Irving novel is Garpist - NOT feminist
As much as I wanted to like this creative, quirky novel, I could not move past the arrogance of the protagonist and the constantly belittling of every female character. Read more
Published on June 30 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my all time favorites
The World According to Garp is not a typical novel. It flows like a human life; many ups and downs. And as with life, you never know what is coming next.
Published on June 28 2004 by M. MCDONALD
5.0 out of 5 stars He's no Richard Russo, but Irving gets it right with TWATG
John Irving is quite a storyteller. Read other reviews to get a synopsis, but this is basically the life story of Garp, an unlikely hero. Read more
Published on June 17 2004 by H. Huggins
5.0 out of 5 stars What a pleasure
I took my time reading this book, in fact I finished it only after a few months of reading it. The reason for this is that this book I used as an escape from my world. Read more
Published on June 13 2004 by Dylan v.d Merwe
1.0 out of 5 stars Avoid Audiobook Version
I was a "Garp" fan from the day the book first appeared, and have personally owned and given away close to 50 copies in the past 20+ years. Read more
Published on June 1 2004 by D. Antoine
5.0 out of 5 stars funny funny funny
this book is hard to describe without ruining it, i'll just say that i was able to read it continuously even though i was in San Sebastián Spain on the beach while i was... Read more
Published on May 26 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book
A story of three generations in a highly atypical family. Comic to the point of inducing laughter out loud, this book exposes intense psychological issues (such as the need for... Read more
Published on April 10 2004 by J. Jacobs
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