Book 119: "The World According to Garp" by John Irving
Title: The Wold According to Garp
Author: John Irving
Publisher: Pocket Books
Read in: Mass Market Paperback
Genre: Literary Fiction, Fiction
My mom has been talking to me about reading this book for a very long time; I finally did. I finished the novel four days ago and I'm still not completely sure how I feel about it. Really, I felt like this book was a mixed bag for me. There are moments I was in love with it and moments that I really didn't care. I also discovered that this book has a serious generation gap, not for enjoyment, but for knowledge of the book's existence. My parents and anyone near their age /generation all knew the book or movie without hesitation. My peers, however, have never heard of the book or movie. I don't think I've been able to draw such a distinct generation gap with any other book.
Anyway, The World According to Garp is good. I liked it overall. It tells the life of T.S. Garp, beginning the story with his mother and his very unconvential conception, following Garp through his life until after his death. As such, the book is quite the undertaking.
It is, however, a book you can sink your teeth in to. It is full of parallels, irony, symbolism, and overarching themes. I love books full of these ongoing connections that I can tear apart. I loved the characters, all of them. They are all full of history and well-developed so that by the end of the book, the reader really knows them like they are family and friends.
What didn't I like? I didn't like the excerpts from Garp's writing (though I acknowledge that they served a purpose, I simply don't like the random deviation from the characters). I didn't like that many of the parallels are explained to me. If you're going to put parallels in your novel, then you should assume that your target reader is going to understand those parallels; otherwise, perhaps you shouldn't be writing a book with parallels. I really hate it when an author treats me like an idiot in this way. The ending was too long. Although I loved all the characters and know them as friends and family, much like in real life, this does not mean I need to know how and where everybody ends up or dies. Life is full of mystery; a book can be concluded without a follow up on every single character that you've met.
I was surprised that a book titled The World According to Garp has an omnicent narrator. Shouldn't the narrator be Garp? But, the book does have an omnicent narrator and it works. Though the reader gets to experience Garp's life through the eyes of others' feelings and actions as well as through Garp's, the omnicent narrator grants the reader a truly comprehensive look at how Garp's world worked. So though the book may not be the world according to only Garp, it does let you experience Garp's world and understand it in a more effective and comprehensive manner.
Overall, I would recommend reading The World According to Garp. It is not one of my favorite books ever, but it was good; especially if you're searching for something to sink your teeth into. It also makes me look forward to reading some Irving's other novels.