The World According to Garp

The World According to Garp

Book - 1979
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Blackwell North Amer
The World According to Garp is a comic and compassionate coming-of-age novel that established John Irving as one of the most imaginative writers of his generation. A worldwide bestseller since its publication in 1978, Irving's classic is filled with stories inside stories about the life and times of T. S. Garp, novelist and bastard son of Jenny Fields - a feminist leader ahead of her time. Beyond that, The World According to Garp virtually defies synopsis.

Publisher: New York : Pocket Books, c1979
ISBN: 9780671523695
0671523694
Characteristics: 609 p. ; 18 cm

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r
rpavlacic
Jun 24, 2017

Weird.

n
NeiaB
Mar 27, 2017

Everyone has a book that changes the way they view life; The World According to Garp is that book for me.

I could not put it down, and by the end I was completely entranced with the characters and plot line. Highly recommend reading.

s
sgcf
Mar 26, 2017

Having recently rediscovered how much I love John Irving’s outrageously imaginative storytelling, I decided to reread Garp, which I thought was great years ago, to see how the passage of time affected my appreciation. Overall, not quite as much pleasure; however I got very attached to his excessive characters, but more frustrated with the extreme plot. Can’t fault Irving for his inventive tale-spinning, though.

k
KathyS82
Oct 08, 2015

I thought this was just okay. Didn't like or connect with any of the characters and the story just didn't flow for me. There were a few good bits in there but overall a bit boring.

w
wyenotgo
Aug 21, 2015

A word of advice to anyone setting out to read this book for the first time: Be patient. It take a long time for the story to really get going. Yes, several of the characters are fascinating from the get go, especially Jenny Fields, Roberta and even poor Tech Sgt Garp, but it's only John Irving's wonderful writing style that prevented me from putting the book aside. I found it exasperating at times, especially Garp's silly Grillparzer story that struck me as a literary equivalent of contemporary "performance art". The episode between the Garps and the Fletchers comes perilously close to the kind of musical beds nonsense made popular by John Updike (and that would be a major downgrade). Even the notorious driveway episode that everyone remembers about the book seems contrived, requiring more suspension of disbelief than I can muster. After having read the glorious "Ciderhouse Rules", this book was shaping up as a major disappointment to me.
The real turning point comes later, when all the deaths suddenly occur. That's when John Irving grabs you and you're in for an emotional ride. As in his other works, Irving constructs a host of damaged, vulnerable, flawed characters and causes you to grow to love them and care very much about what happens to them. Almost every one of them turns out to have redeeming qualities, and over time, they are able to change. Garp makes much of the value of writing what is "true" about the human condition and his ability to shape the trajectory of a character's personality over time is a perfect example of that "true". In real life, people are not static, but very few writers are able to accomplish that kind of life journey for their characters. Not since Vitor Hugo have I encountered a writer able to do it as Irving does.
There's definitely a "Spiegel im Spiegel" aspect within the book: Irving portrays Garp as a writer who starts out with pure fictional inventiveness (writing about "the world" as he terms it) but regresses into layers of autobiography. Garp is clearly a portrayal of much that is just John Irving, partly as he is and partly as he wishes to be. So you need to like Irving in order to like Garp. Fortunately for me, I like Irving, so I found Garp to be tolerable. It's interesting to note, though that while reading the epilogue, I didn't really miss Garp that much, but found myself mourning the loss of Roberta, Helen, Ellen and even the memory of the indomitable Jenny Fields.

Torero3 Oct 22, 2014

GET SOME MORE COPIES OF THIS BOOK!
This is a modern classic, and you have three total copies for a city of 7 million people. This was written 40 years ago and you can see there are still 15 holds on it. That's 15 customers you are neglecting on a book that wont be a doorstop by next summer! This is should be a red flag.
Get on it NYPL!! I believe you're better than this.

JCLBeckyC May 10, 2014

T.S. Garp--named after the father he never knew--is the son of legendary feminist Jenny Fields. He wants to be taken seriously as a writer, but he can't seem to get out from under the shadow of his famous mother and her entourage of eccentric friends. I read this book in one insomniac night when I was 20. That was 23 years ago. To this day, I think of the characters in the novel as if they were long lost friends.

f
finn75
May 31, 2013

This book made me laugh and gasp. Truly memorable characters spread through a fantastic book.

m
mackiecat
Mar 22, 2013

The John Irving novel that really started it all. It goes into some places that seem weird and definitely fantastic. Pro-gay, pro feminist (although with a cautionary tale - reminiscent of any cult scene in the '70's) and definitely pro-survive anything and go forward. Acceptance of other people going in other directions.

Definitely John Irving.

Strangely, one starts to have real affection for some of the characters. Just watch your heart - anything can happen to any of them at any time.

Definitely for the brave.

SpencerSpencer Feb 12, 2013

This is one of very few novels I've ever read four times in my life. I find it so well written, heart-breaking, humourous, realistic, and far-fetched. So many things from out of the blue that it just seems like real life to me. A five star novel.

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snaptin
Mar 07, 2011

From Wikipedia . . .

The story deals with the life of T. S. Garp. His mother, Jenny Fields, is a strong-willed nurse who wants a child but not a husband. She encounters a dying ball turret gunner known only as Technical Sergeant Garp who was severely brain damaged in combat. Jenny nurses Garp, observing his infantile state and almost perpetual autonomic sexual arousal. As a matter of practicality and kindness in making his passing as comfortable as possible and reducing his agitation she manually gratifies him several times. Unconstrained by convention and driven by practicality and her desire for a child, Jenny uses Garp's sexual response to impregnate herself, and names the resultant son after him "T. S." (standing only for "Technical Sergeant"). Jenny raises young Garp alone, taking a position at an all-boys school.

Garp grows up, becoming interested in sex, wrestling, and writing fiction—three topics in which his mother has little interest. He launches his writing career, courts and marries the wrestling coach's daughter, and fathers three children. Meanwhile, his mother suddenly becomes a feminist icon after publishing a best-selling autobiography called A Sexual Suspect (referring to the general assessment of her as a woman who does not care to bind herself to a man, and who chooses to raise a child on her own).

Garp becomes a devoted parent, wrestling with anxiety for the safety of his children and a desire to keep them safe from the dangers of the world. He and his family inevitably experience dark and violent events through which the characters change and grow. Garp learns (often painfully) from the women in his life (including transsexual ex-football player Roberta Muldoon) struggling to become more tolerant in the face of intolerance. The story is decidedly rich with (in the words of the fictional Garp's teacher) "lunacy and sorrow", and the sometimes ridiculous chains of events the characters experience still resonate with painful truth.

The novel contains several framed narratives: Garp's first novella, The Pension Grillparzer; a short story; and a portion of one of his novels, The World According to Bensenhaver. As well, the book contains some motifs that appear in almost all John Irving novels: bears, wrestling, Vienna, New England, people who are uninterested in having sex, and a complex Dickensian plot that spans the protagonist's whole life. Adultery (another common Irving motif) also plays a large part, culminating in one of the novel's most harrowing and memorable scenes. There is also a tincture of another familiar Irving trope, castration anxiety, most obvious in the lamentable fate of Michael Milton.

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