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The World According to Garp by John Irving

The World According to Garp (1978)

by John Irving

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MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
11,941144216 (4.09)292
  1. 120
    A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (dele2451)
    dele2451: Garp and Owen would make a great literary double feature. I wish I didn't have to wait so many years between reading both of these wonderful books.
  2. 60
    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon (alzo)
  3. 21
    Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut (soffitta1)
    soffitta1: Both are left-field, with overlap in themes.
  4. 21
    A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz (Rynooo)
  5. 21
    White Teeth by Zadie Smith (sipthereader)

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English (129)  French (3)  Spanish (3)  Dutch (3)  German (1)  Tagalog (1)  Swedish (1)  Hebrew (1)  Italian (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (144)
Showing 1-5 of 129 (next | show all)
This is the story of T.S. Garp, named after his biological father Technical Sergeant Garp. His mother, Jenny Fields was a determined nurse who wanted a child but not a husband. She eventually becomes a feminist icon before being killed by a crazed man for what she said in her autobiography A Sexual Suspect. Garp went on to become a writer as well and The World According to Garp tells the story of his life.

This is my first attempt into the writing of John Irving’s writing and I was impressed with what I read. Many people recommend starting with some of his other books (A Prayer for Owen Meaning or The Cider House Rules) but I think I made the right choice with The World According to Garp. What stood out to me within the book was the constant struggle that T.S. Garp experienced his entire life. Even his decision to become a writer was made in the effort to get a girl. This was a struggle with lust and the way it took over his whole life. It was like he had no control over his own sexual desire but then again he never really tried. Lust took over everything within Garp’s life but other characters also struggled as well. I really enjoyed the way that Irving explores the beauty and destructiveness of sex and desire.

This is not just a novel the focuses on lust, this is also a book that explores life and death. It is fair to say that T.S. Garp had a fascination with death, especially when his book The Pension Grillparzer saw seven of the nine main characters die. Even his third novel The World According to Bensenhaver featured many death scenes. There are so many more scenes about death, you can look at the death of Garp and his mother and see the similarities and symbolism.

There were moments where I was worried that this book would turn transphobic but the way John Irving treated the character Roberta was done really well. Gender roles play a big part in this book, starting from Garp’s mother rejecting a man and deciding to raise her child alone. The novel also explores feminism, the women’s rights movement and misogyny. What I loved about this book is that there are so many issues tacked within the pages, when I thought I understood the major theme it offers something different.

I like how The World According to Garp explored the whole life of Garp from birth to death. Written like Garp was telling the story, it still covers parts of his life that he could not possibly know, including his birth and his death. I was really impressed with John Irving’s style of writing that I plan to read so many more of his books. I hear A Prayer for Owen Meaning is the next book I should tackle but I would love other suggestions too.

This review originally appeared on my blog; http://literary-exploration.com/2015/04/14/the-world-according-to-garp-by-john-i... ( )
  knowledge_lost | Apr 14, 2015 |
After I saw the movie I had to read this. Impressive. A bit high on the yuck factor, a bit too much whining and neuroticism from some characters, and some stuff I didn't really understand, but I liked this well enough to keep going with Irving for a little while.

(I liked/understood A Prayer for Owen Meany almost as much, was frustrated by Hotel New Hampshire, and gave up on Cider House Rules.) ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Apr 14, 2015 |
the movie changed my world. i was a teenager when it came out and it blew my mind. i’d never experienced a story like that, frank yet humorous and also gut-wrenchingly sad. all the quirky characters to whom unusual and intense things happen. for me, John Lithgow has always been defined by Roberta.

anyway, the book.

Irving’s prose was solid but didn’t quite mimic the richness of the screen version for me. nonetheless, the book was epic in scope and satisfying. i loved being able to see more into the lives of the people in Garp’s life, especially his mother. it felt like a life, a whole life, when i finished the book. like i had witnessed something special and real and meaningful even if it wasn’t profound.

twists and turns throughout the novel gave it an interesting flavor that also served to keep it on the verge of tongue-in-cheek to the end. ironies and metaphors abound that reach out into greater philosophies but they only ask questions or make gentle assumptions. i’m not sure if Irving put a lot his own life into this (i’m fairly certain he did) but it seemed like he might have been writing a whimsical bit of fiction in which he could explore some of his own aspirations and write out or publish some of his own “lesser” works like the excerpts and short stories written by Garp.

if Irving had scratched the surface a little deeper, i think something truly great and timeless would have emerged. the meandering story felt out-of-focus fuzzy or tilt-shifted where only foreground objects were sharp and the host context was an impressionist’s painting. still, this story will stay with me in ways that other, “deeper,” novels will not. ( )
1 vote keebrook | Mar 10, 2015 |
One of my favorite books by my favorite author. John Irving is a wonderful storyteller. ( )
  MiriamMartin | Dec 12, 2014 |
“Life is an X-rated soap opera” (p. 470 in the Ballantine Books, © 1978 edition).

This theme is often repeated through the book, and I suspect that its repetition was no accident. John Irving is not one to waste words. And so, if he says a thing more than once, I take it he wants his readers to understand and appreciate the sentiment.

The World According to Garp is a modern-day classic at the level — in their own time — of the works of such literary mainstays as Tolstoy, Balzac and Dickens. It contains its own kind of pathos, its own kind of humor, its own kind of grandiosity. In short, the novel is big in every respect.

When I first saw the film 20 or 30 years ago, I loved it. At the time (or shortly before that time), my girlfriend in college had praised the book and told me I ought to read it. Snob that I was, I didn’t. At the time, I wouldn’t touch anything newer than Chaucer or — worst case — Fielding. My loss (as I’ve come to realize 20 or 30 years later). That, or I first needed to grow up.

There are several “quotables” in Irving’s book. I’ve already spearheaded this review with one of them. But there are others….

“Life,” Garp wrote, “is sadly not structured like a good old-fashioned novel. Instead, an ending occurs when those who are meant to peter out have petered out. All that’s left is memory. But a nihilist has a memory” (p. 582, ibid).

There are, of course, others that simply wouldn’t make any sense (or strike a reader dumb) out of context. But in context, they’re gems.

Irving is not a stylist in the truest sense of the word, but he is a story-teller almost sans pareille. The World According to Garp is over 600 pages in length — something almost unheard of in our day and celebration of Patience Little & Attention Spanless. But I, for one, haven’t been as captivated by a novel since — oh, I don’t know — Tom Jones; pretty much anything contained in La Comédie humaine; Great Expectations; Bleak House or David Copperfield.

‘Nough said. If you haven’t already read it, do yourself a favor: read the book, then watch the movie. Maybe you, too, will arrive at the same conclusion: viz., that John Irving and George Roy Hill (the Director of the film) are a pair of American classics almost on a par with Mark Twain.
( )
1 vote RussellBittner | Dec 12, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 129 (next | show all)
The World According to Garp was more than single, memorable moments. It was unforgettable as a whole for a simple reason - it was epic. It was what a Great American Novel needs to be: all of life between covers.
These things oughtn't to be funny. Still, the way that Mr. Irving writes about them, they are. They way he filters them through his hero's unique imagination, we not only laugh at the world according to Garp, but we also accept it and love it.

» Add other authors (38 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Irvingprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Paolini, Pier FrancescoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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for Colin and Brendan
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Garp's mother, Jenny Fields, was arrested in Boston in 1942 for wounding a man in a movie theater.
people who have problems do not, as a rule, think their problems are "funny."
I have nothing but sympathy for how people behave--and nothing but laughter to console them with.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 034536676X, Mass Market Paperback)

"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

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:23:26 -0400)

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The story of T.S. Garp, the bastard son of a feminist leader who is ahead of her time. A comic and compassionate coming-of-age story.

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