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The World According to Garp by John Irving
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The World According to Garp (1978)

by John Irving

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
12,326154205 (4.09)308
  1. 141
    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 & Clay by Michael Chabon (alzo)
  3. 31
    White Teeth by Zadie Smith (sipthereader)
  4. 21
    Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut (soffitta1)
    soffitta1: Both are left-field, with overlap in themes.
  5. 21
    A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz (Rynooo)
  6. 00
    She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb (shesinplainview)
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» See also 308 mentions

English (139)  French (3)  Spanish (3)  Dutch (3)  German (1)  Tagalog (1)  Swedish (1)  Hebrew (1)  Italian (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (154)
Showing 1-5 of 139 (next | show all)
Reread. Audible-- after note by John irving especially interesting.
  akh3966 | May 12, 2016 |
Definitely one of my favourites. A truly unique story, hilarous and tragically sad at the same time, but full of brilliant writing and great thinking.

Irving is, after reading A Prayer For Owen Meany and The World According To Garp, my favourite writer.
  bartt95 | Apr 10, 2016 |
The story deals with the life of T. S. Garp. His mother, Jenny Fields, is a strong-willed nurse; an asexual who wants a child but not a husband. She encounters a dying tail gunner known only as Technical Sergeant Garp who was reduced to a perpetually priapic mental vegetable by pieces of shrapnel that pierced his head. Jenny rapes Garp in his bedridden, uncomprehending, dying state 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 a 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.

  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
My introduction to the weird world of John Irving. ( )
  nljacobs | Jan 19, 2016 |
After thinking about the book for a few days, it just hasn't grown on me. Irving has these wonderful sections where he shows what he can do when he writes with feeling, but he saddles it with attempts at sexual comedy and wacky hijinks.

Clarissa and I talked about the book in more detail for our burgeoning Books & Beer podcast. ( )
  gregorybrown | Oct 18, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 139 (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.
Quotations
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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:03 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

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.

» see all 8 descriptions

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