Having recently rediscovered how much I love John Irving’s outrageously imaginative storytelling, I decided to reread Garp, which I thought was great years ago, to see how the passage of time affected my appreciation. Overall, not quite as much pleasure; however I got very attached to his excessive characters, but more frustrated with the extreme plot. Can’t fault Irving for his inventive tale-spinning, though.
I thought this was just okay. Didn't like or connect with any of the characters and the story just didn't flow for me. There were a few good bits in there but overall a bit boring.
A word of advice to anyone setting out to read this book for the first time: Be patient. It take a long time for the story to really get going. Yes, several of the characters are fascinating from the get go, especially Jenny Fields, Roberta and even poor Tech Sgt Garp, but it's only John Irving's wonderful writing style that prevented me from putting the book aside. I found it exasperating at times, especially Garp's silly Grillparzer story that struck me as a literary equivalent of contemporary "performance art". The episode between the Garps and the Fletchers comes perilously close to the kind of musical beds nonsense made popular by John Updike (and that would be a major downgrade). Even the notorious driveway episode that everyone remembers about the book seems contrived, requiring more suspension of disbelief than I can muster. After having read the glorious "Ciderhouse Rules", this book was shaping up as a major disappointment to me.
The real turning point comes later, when all the deaths suddenly occur. That's when John Irving grabs you and you're in for an emotional ride. As in his other works, Irving constructs a host of damaged, vulnerable, flawed characters and causes you to grow to love them and care very much about what happens to them. Almost every one of them turns out to have redeeming qualities, and over time, they are able to change. Garp makes much of the value of writing what is "true" about the human condition and his ability to shape the trajectory of a character's personality over time is a perfect example of that "true". In real life, people are not static, but very few writers are able to accomplish that kind of life journey for their characters. Not since Vitor Hugo have I encountered a writer able to do it as Irving does.
There's definitely a "Spiegel im Spiegel" aspect within the book: Irving portrays Garp as a writer who starts out with pure fictional inventiveness (writing about "the world" as he terms it) but regresses into layers of autobiography. Garp is clearly a portrayal of much that is just John Irving, partly as he is and partly as he wishes to be. So you need to like Irving in order to like Garp. Fortunately for me, I like Irving, so I found Garp to be tolerable. It's interesting to note, though that while reading the epilogue, I didn't really miss Garp that much, but found myself mourning the loss of Roberta, Helen, Ellen and even the memory of the indomitable Jenny Fields.
GET SOME MORE COPIES OF THIS BOOK!
This is a modern classic, and you have three total copies for a city of 7 million people. This was written 40 years ago and you can see there are still 15 holds on it. That's 15 customers you are neglecting on a book that wont be a doorstop by next summer! This is should be a red flag.
Get on it NYPL!! I believe you're better than this.
T.S. Garp--named after the father he never knew--is the son of legendary feminist Jenny Fields. He wants to be taken seriously as a writer, but he can't seem to get out from under the shadow of his famous mother and her entourage of eccentric friends. I read this book in one insomniac night when I was 20. That was 23 years ago. To this day, I think of the characters in the novel as if they were long lost friends.
This book made me laugh and gasp. Truly memorable characters spread through a fantastic book.
The John Irving novel that really started it all. It goes into some places that seem weird and definitely fantastic. Pro-gay, pro feminist (although with a cautionary tale - reminiscent of any cult scene in the '70's) and definitely pro-survive anything and go forward. Acceptance of other people going in other directions.
Definitely John Irving.
Strangely, one starts to have real affection for some of the characters. Just watch your heart - anything can happen to any of them at any time.
Definitely for the brave.
This is one of very few novels I've ever read four times in my life. I find it so well written, heart-breaking, humourous, realistic, and far-fetched. So many things from out of the blue that it just seems like real life to me. A five star novel.
Read this awhile ago. I found it very well written. Read as part of an online book group, and as another 1001-books-to-read-before-you-die list book.
The amazing thing about this book is how well John Irving has figured out his characters. Every little detail. I love when he adds something they wrote one time as a little afterthought. It's humorous and sad and happy and interesting. Sometimes I found it difficult and tedious to read the stories embedded in the book, but it was part of the story as well. In the end, it was all worth it and the themes are great.
I am probably the only sole on Earth that doesn't agree with others regarding this book. I found it far fetched (mother's means of conception) and somewhat boring.
A really good read; thoroughly enjoyed it and another confirmation of why Irving is one of my favourite authors. It's about a father's fears; that bad things happen. It's a novel about the need to be careful and how, sometimes, that isn't enough.
One of my all time favorites, this book has it all. It is funny, sad, and uplifting, with memorable characters. The movie was really good as well;l as it kept true to the spirit of the book.