Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The World According to Garp by John Irving

I won't lie when I tell you that the death of actor Robin Williams really had an impact on me. That is a weird way to start off my review of The World According to Garp by John Irving but if you are a Robin Williams fan then you are probably aware that he starred in the film adaption of the acclaimed novel. I had never heard of the novel or film before Williams's death. In fact, I found there were many Robin Williams films that I was ignorant to. In an attempt to become more familiar with his film career, I added all of his film credits to my watch list. But Garp was different. Seeing as it was a novel, I added it to the top of my reading list although I can't say I was looking forward to the read. The book sounded okay, my library copy was old and worn and I just wasn't in the mood to read a huge book. I had to give myself a pep talk for that last reason because it is a long read. To my surprise, Garp immediately got my attention and I knew long before I finished that it would be a favorite.
The World According to Garp is a widely expansive novel that focuses on the life of writer T.S. Garp. The story begins with an in depth look at his mother Jenny Fields and how she came to conceive Garp. It would seem a bit curious that the story doesn't start with our main man but then again, there are many curious narrative choices made by author John Irving to tell Garp's story and all of the choices are particularly brilliant; for if we didn't hear Jenny Fields story then we wouldn't have such a good look at how Garp's mother impacted him and his life. The book focuses on many things in the midst of Garp's life. At once it is a commentary on list and politics and the next moment it is about writers and morality and parental paranoia. The book encompasses so many aspects of life and with most novels this would be a huge problem. But not with Garp. Irving seems very aware of the grandness of his tale and matches it with brilliant writing and deep reflections on life and diverse characters.
I feel compelled to compare the experience of reading this novel to reading Ian McEwan's Atonement when I was 17. While these novels are completely different in scope, they both focus on a similar theme and that is the theme of the writer. Both novels illustrate how reality becomes fiction and how fiction is not much different than reality and how the two bleed into one another for better or worse. This theme is captured so well in Garp.
My complaints are limited when it comes to this book. It was a bit boring at times but character development makes up for it. I had a love/hate relationship with Garp's writing. While it was awesome how he came to write a certain piece, I never truly enjoyed reading his writing. I appreciated it in the overall scope of the story but actually reading it was hard to get through. But I don't feel those complaints warrant me from not loving this book because man, did I love it. I'm so glad I read it and wish I could take a class on it and study it more! Definitely giving this 5 out of 5 stars.

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