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CBR5 #2: The World According to Garp by John Irving

While my obsession with horror books is not over (sorry Mum!) there will be a brief respite from them for a while.

The World According to Garp is the story of T. S. Garp. It begins with the life of his mother Jenny Fields, and the way that she became a feminist icon, and continues to follow Garp's life through the twists and turns of becoming a husband, father, writer, and unwilling icon in his own right. I thought I might like this, since I fell in love with Irving's Hotel New Hampshire, but instead it was a struggle just to finish it. I hated dogmatic matron Jenny Fields. I hated whiny, indecisive, anxiety-ridden Garp. I hated Garp's puling, dissatisfied wife Helen. I hated the Ellen Jamesians (a group of women who cut their own tongues out to represent the struggle of young rape victim Ellen James). I did like Ellen James herself (partly due to her own hatred of the Ellen Jamesians), though my favorite character was Garp's friend Roberta Muldoon, transgendered former football player.

In general, I felt like the book dragged on forever, detailing the often melodramatic lives of a bunch of people I didn't like. Unlike Hotel New Hampshire, which I wished were a thousand pages longer, I kept looking at Garp and thinking "Still? There are still SO MANY pages left?" The parts I liked the most were the bits of Garp's "writing," and his short story about the family who travel the world rating hotels brought a flicker of recognition and enjoyment (the family might as well have been the Berrys, though instead of running hotels they visit them) it all went back to Garp eventually. Unfortunately.

I suspect that this is one of those books that people either love or hate. I'm sure there are a lot of people who adore it--several of my friends seem to be quite fond of it--but it left me completely cold.

Comments

Jen K said…
I read a lot of his novels a few years ago, but at some point it just got too much; all the random characters, the weird quirks, etc. I do think that A Prayer for Owen Meany and Widow for a Year were ones I really enjoyed, though, if you're looking to pick up another one of his. Of course, this was like 8 years ago so I'm not sure if my recommendations would still hold. I do remember I didn't really Until I Found You that much (I think it has similarities with Garp, too; single mother and son etc.)

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