Monday, December 15, 2014

Book review: The World According to Garp by John Irving

Back of the book blurb:  Journey through four generations, across two continents with the astonishing family of T.S. Garp -- the famous bastard son of a belligerent mother -- who loves, lusts, labors, and triumphs in a world of assassins, wrestlers, rapists, feminist fanatics, transsexual football players, tantalizing teen-age babysitters, adoring children and a wayward wife.

My husband told me,  "Oh, yeah, I read that book in high school."

"Your teacher assigned it?"

"No, I read it by myself."

"What's it about?"

"Read it and find out."

So that's what I did...

John Irving has an educated view of society's treatment of women -- sexism, the feminist movement of the 1960s, men's physical abuse of women.

the blurb John Wolf (Garp's publisher) writers for Garp's book could be used to describe John Irving's The World According to Garp. 

'The women's movement has at last exhibited a significant influence on a significant male writer... the first in-depth study, by a man of the peculiarly male neurotic presence many women are made to suffer.' (p. 476)

Helen (Garp's once girlfriend, then wife) seems to be the driving force behind Garp's desire to be a writer.

Helen:  ' "If I marry anybody. I'll marry a writer."...
It was that afternoon... [that] T.S. Garp decided he was going to be a writer.' (p. 89)

Learning to write for someone else seems to me to be like losing weight for someone -- a recipe for unhappiness. He'll only like me if I'm thin -- he'll only like me if I'm a writer -- he'll only like me if I'm something or someone I'm not. 

Why alter yourself for someone else? What's so wonderful about him that it's worth that major change just to measure up to his desire.

Garp doesn't force Helen to change in any way. She continues to have the upper hand in their relationship -- passing judgement over his talent. 

It wouldn't take me too long to start to feel bitter. 

And it takes so much time, devoted time, to learn how to be a good writer; too much time simply to please someone else.  

'Garp did not write faster than anyone else, or more he simply worked with the idea of completion in mind.' (p. 223)

I can't think of a single person who reads books the way Garp does -- over and over again, twenty or thirty times. 
How boring. 
But he's not reading to be entertained. He's reading to study the craft.

I wonder if The Life According to Garp is one of the first books that speak out against the abuse suffered by the LGBT community?

In The World According to Garp, we meet head-on the "truth" each newly released author must face. Your characters, your plot come through you. They are part of who you are. They are a snapshot of a time in your life. A personal (at times extremely personal) postcard sent by you to the world.

'If the truth suited the story he would reveal it without embarrassment.' (p. 271)

An author doesn't want the world to love their novel because if the world does it's just a yawn fest. Instead, you want controversy -- controversy leads to debate; debate leads to publicity; publicity leads to sales.

The final chapter of The World According to Garp is like a phone call that stretches on too long -- the news has been shared, the bond has been deepened but enough is enough, already. Was the editor on holidays?

'[N]early everything seems a letdown after a writer has finished writing something.' (p. 170)

What others said...

The World According to Garp (1978)

The World According to Garp

Between the Covers book review of The World According to Garp

Robin Williams on playing Garp in the movie.

The Original Theatrical Trailer

Friday's guest:  we will celebrate Winter Solstice with my friend Gail Woodward

Sharing my author journey...

Each manuscript takes its own journey to discover. My latest WIP is taking me places I haven't been before. Usually, before starting the journey, I develop plans of what I want to see, where I want to go. I may not follow these plans, but I have them. This manuscript is insisting that these plans aren't necessary. Usually, I meet my characters as my readers will -- over the course of the book. However, this time my characters what to get to know me, at their pace, before I start to write about them. This promises to be an interesting ride. I'll pack light -- to leave lots of room for hope. Wish me luck.