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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
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 morePublished on March 23 2007 by Waddleforth
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 morePublished on July 19 2004 by "petkov"
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 morePublished on July 8 2004
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 morePublished on June 30 2004
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
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 morePublished on June 17 2004 by H. Huggins
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 morePublished on June 13 2004 by Dylan v.d Merwe
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 morePublished on June 1 2004 by D. Antoine
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 morePublished on May 26 2004