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The World According to Garp Hardcover – Apr 20 1998
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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
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
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
In reading this again after many years I was able to see it differently and was more aware of its many merits and nuances.Published 4 days ago by firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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