Thursday, April 7, 2016

Completed: The World According to Garp

Dear Jenny,

Oops. Slow start to reporting this year... my bad. We actually finished this in January, but then my world kind of imploded in February, so I haven't been great about focusing in 2016. Buuuut... here I am!

Basically, this book held up. We weren't sure if we would feel the same way about this WMFuN 20+ years later, but it was great. I kinda just want to end this review there, but we said some other stuff when we were reading it, so I'm going to jot down my notes here (I was going to try to arrange this into something coherent but it's now April, so let's just get this done)...

First chat (Chapters 1-3)

Jenny:  I don't have patience for world-building, and John Irving is a big world-builder, but it's in our world. He writes this entire whole other world (for instance, about the guy who founds the school), which just adds just a layer but we still love it and it's interesting. So I guess I have patience for "world-building" if it's our world.

Kelly: I remember this being a WMFuN novel, but so much of this has focussed on Jenny (his mother)

Jenny: Does he marry a transgender person?
Kelly: I think he's going to marry the coach's daughter.
[Transgender person ends up being a friend of the family's -- Roberta. Garp's son ends up marrying another transgender person that Roberta introduces him to.]

Kelly: Doesn't he get his penis bit off?
Jenny: What?! I don't remember that. Whhhhat?!
[This ends up being Garp's wife biting off the penis of her lover when Garp rear ends his car.]

Interesting note about John Irving -- he always begins novels with the last sentence. (We speculated about how that works for awhile. But hey, we're not John Irving so what the heck do we know?)

Second chat (Chapters 4-10):

Kelly: We're getting to the WMFuN'edness now.
Jenny: I don't know -- Irving can write anything and I'll love it.
Kelly: Um, seducing the babysitter?
Both: [...]

Fuckups observed:

  • Screwing the babysitter
  • Having sex with the other prostitute [It's been 3 months since we read this book and I said, "Whaaat?" when I just read that. After thinking about it, I remember now, but man! Irving's books are like fever dreams!]

Redemptions observed:

  • Busting the rapist
  • Visiting the aging prostitute

Third chat (Chapters 11-19):

And then my notes devolve into truly random chatter about the book. I'm sorry. I should have written this down months ago! Here's what I've got:

Garp plays a traditionally "feminine" role in their household but never thinks anything negative about it -- he is the product of Jenny's views of "feminism." One theme from this book: You are just a product of your parents and your situation.

The story of the Pension Grillparzer: we thought it wasn't going to be good cause it's a book within a book, but... it's really good. Of course. It's Irving-within-Irving!

Irving's gift is that he writes a straight narrative with weird people and situations. He's a keen observer of life: People are weird. And he doesn't flinch from that.

It's so moving that the "reveal" of the son's death is delayed in the story for so long. You know something terrible has happened, but you don't know the details and it gets tougher and tougher as it goes on and you suspect what has happened. Jenny: Especially after the "forecasting" (more than "foreshadowing") that the son is going die leading up to that scene.

[I wrote down the following sentence, but I have no idea what it means]: Who is responsible for the gear shift? The war.

We talked about some of the more ridiculous coincidences and your comment was perfect: "Life is full of ridiculous coincidences." Fair enough.

I have not done this book justice. But hey -- it's logged. We're movin' on!



  1. I am trying to figure out your most cryptic comment: "Who is responsible for the gear shift. The war."

    We must have been talking about how Garp and his wife kept arguing over who was going to take care of that chore, which does show a break down in the gendered household chores of their family. I guess they were warring about it--and their inability to fix that problem cost their son his eye. Which seems excessive---just like everything else in this book.

    Hey---did you ever read Avenue of Mysteries for the ToB? I never got to it. Sigh. Now it's just fodder for future TBR lists.

    1. Oooooh... nice extrapolation from my cryptic notes there!

      Nope. Did not read it. Still plan to, even after the bashing. I love me some Irving.