21. The World According to Garp – John Irving.
History: Published in 1978, the book was a bestseller for several years. Garp's school is based on the Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, of which Irving is an alumnus. His stepfather was a faculty member.
Plot: His mother, Jenny Fields, is a strong-willed nurse; an asexual who wants a child but not a husband, she conceives him by taking advantage of a brain-damaged soldier. Jenny raises young Garp alone, taking a position at a boys' school. Garp grows up, becoming interested in sex, wrestling, and writing fiction—three topics in which his mother has little interest. He launches his writing career, courts and marries the wrestling coach's daughter, and fathers three children. Meanwhile, his mother suddenly becomes a feminist icon after publishing a best-selling autobiography called A Sexual Suspect . Garp marries, and becomes a devoted parent, wrestling with anxiety for the safety of his children and a desire to keep them safe from the dangers of the world. He and his family inevitably experience dark and violent events through which the characters change and grow. .His best friend is a transsexual who was formerly a tight end for the Philadelphia Eagles. Garp struggles vainly to protect the people he loves. His life is both hilarious and ultimately tragic.
Review: This is the life and times of T. S. Garp, the bastard son of Jenny Fields--a feminist leader ahead of her times. This is the life and death of a famous mother and her almost-famous son; theirs is a world of sexual extremes--even of sexual assassinations. It is a novel rich with ""lunacy and sorrow"" yet the dark, violent events of the story do not undermine a comedy both ribald and robust.I can’t remember when I started reading the John Irving books. They were very popular in the eighties. I did read a string of them at a time. This wasn’t my favorite. I may have read the other two first, but I can’t remember. I didn’t even love this movie, but I thought it was better than the book. It was tragic, it was disconnected, and described a character out of a cartoonish type world that didn’t fit into my idea of fascinating. A readable social commentary with occasional witty moments. The book focuses a lot on sexuality and questions what that is, exploring the issue from a number of different viewpoints.
Opening Line: Garp’s mother, Jenny Fields, was arrested in Boston in 1942 for wounding a man in a movie theater.
Closing Line: But in the world according to Garp, we are all terminal cases.
Quotes: "she recognized the need in boys to devote themselves, mindlessly, to a repetitious physical act. It seemed to relax them."
"...you can know someone all your life and never quite be friends."-
"Kids are beautiful, man. And they know much more than grownups think they know. Kids are just perfect people until grownups get their hands on them."-