Monday, November 29, 2010
"The World According to Garp" by John Irving
Musings: I've only read two books by Irving--this and A Prayer for Owen Meany--and they're a lot a like. I don't say this as criticism, but rather because I think the easiest way to understand what The World According to Garp is like is to have read another one of Irving's books.
A World According to Garp is populated by crazy and bizarre characters who nonetheless are so intricately drawn as to feel real (there's something Garp says about fiction being realer than reality, which certainly applies). Similarly, the events that happen in the book are too fantastical to believe (particularly the tragedy) while also making complete sense within the context of the book. There's no real plot arc to the story, and it would be difficult to summarize the novel's plot (which is why I didn't even try in the summary above). Nonetheless, the reader is drawn into the story.
There's a lot to think through after finishing A World According to Garp, and I almost think I'd rather just be left with the finished story. Because Garp is a writer, much of the book concerns Garp's craft of writing. However, those comments on writing are part of the very structure of A World According to Garp itself. In essence, Irving is Garp as Irving writes the book, so the reader is left with the feeling of reading Garp and reading about Garp at the same time. It's all very meta.
But, the book can also be read without thinking too deeply about multiple levels, and there's plenty of humor, sex, violence, tragedy, and love to keep it afloat.