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Three days after finishing number sixty-four I am finally getting around to posting my review.  My most recent literary conquest is The World According to Garp by John Irving.  I saw the film version featuring Robin Williams several years ago and have been curious about the book ever since.  I happened to see it at Half Price Books recently, and a dollar later it was mine.

Garp is a difficult book to summarize.  In a nutshell, it chronicles the life of the titular Garp.  Garp is the son of Jenny Fields, a nurse who desires a child but does not want a relationship with a man.  This makes her an extreme oddity in the 1940s.  Her solution is to conceive a child with a dying brain-damaged patient who retains sexual function despite lacking motor skills and effective sensory perception.  Needless to say, Garp’s life is a bit unusual. His mother publishes an autobiography that makes her a feminist icon, while Garp becomes a moderately famous writer.  A series of tremendous misfortunes test Garp’s sanity and the love that binds his family together.  The cast of characters also features Garp’s wife Helen, former NFL player and transsexual Roberta (formerly Robert) Muldoon, and several other less important but extremely interesting individuals.  The novel touches on the themes of gender relations, the anxiety of parenthood, lust, infidelity, forgiveness, the art of writing, and many, many more.  This summary doesn’t even begin to do justice to this book. 

John Irving’s creativity is astounding.  The plot of Garp is engrossing and impossible to predict.  It is occasionally obscene but always sincere.  No matter how outrageous the characters sound, Irving manages to make them come alive.  The character of Garp is one of the most memorable and enjoyable in recent fiction, and you can’t help but love him despite his many flaws.  The ridiculous and heartbreaking events of which he is the victim are darkly humorous but poignant.  This is a book that will make you laugh out loud at things that should not be funny, including rape, death, and one shocking example of castration by car accident.  That is Irving’s most remarkable accomplishment– he forces the reader to recognize the humor lurking behind every aspect of our lives, even the most astonishing tragedies.

The Current Count:

64 Read, 36 To Go

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