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The World According to Garp - John Irving
As a child I saw 'the world according to Garp' in a bookstore and was intrigued by the title. So when I came across it in the library in 2008 I took it home. I had no idea what to expect.
It was a very readable novel. What surprised me was that the main character's cheating on his wife didn't make me loathe him for the rest of the book although I did like him less for it.
I also saw the film.
Earlier this year I reread the book for my English examns, but before re-reading I remembered quite a lot of it, appearently it had made quite an impression.
'The World according to Garp' describes the life and writing of Garp and his family, and as the title suggests, his outlook on life and various matters. The story is told by an all-knowing narrator, somewhat like a biography. It is also a framework for some of Garps work (presented in a different font type) and troughout the book Garp, his mother Jenny and sometimes other people's writing is quoted.
Garp grows up at the Steering school, where his single mother works as school nurse. When he is old enough he attends the school himself and starts writing and wrestling. After graduating, Garp and Jenny live in Vienna for a while, where they both write and Garp explores the city and gets acquainted to a whore. The story Garp writes, 'The pension Grilpartzer', is published and convinces Helen, the daughter of his wrestling coach, to marry him. Jenny's autobiography, 'A sexual suspect' becomes a bestseller and makes her a spokesperson for the feminist movement. Both have the same editor, John Wolf.
Garp and Helen start a family; Helen teaches while Garp writes and takes care of their two sons. Their marriage life is described, their affairs, Garps writing and his excessive worrying about his children. Garp enjoys cooking and running.
Meanwhile Jenny moves in to the house at Dogs Head Harbour that she inherits from her parents, it becomes a safe haven for women. She befriends Roberta Muldoon (former Robert Muldoon) who is a great help to her and becomes a close friend of Garp. Part of the women seeking shelter with Jenny are the so called 'Ellen Jamesians', who cut their tongue off because of a young girl named Ellen James was raped and had her tongue cut off. There is much controversy about the Ellen Jamesians.
An accident happens after Garp found out Helen was having an affair with a student namend Michael Milton; Garp and Helen's youngest son Walt dies, their oldest son Duncan looses an eye. Garp breaks his jaw. Garp, Helen and Duncan move in with Jenny to recover. After a while a daughter, also named Jenny, is born. Garp and his family move to Vienna for a while, at the advise of John Wolf, who expects a lot of controversy about Garps newest book. He is right, both about the controversy aswell as about the huge success of the book. While they are in Vienna, Garp's mother Jenny gets shot at a political rally. They return to the US and Garp attends a memorial for Jenny, dressed in drag. He gets found out and has to flee. On his way to Steering, where they'll stay at the house of Ernie Holm, his father in law and former wrestling coach, he meets Ellen James, who becomes a part of their family and is not too happy about the Ellen Jamesians. When they arrive at Steering, Ernie has died. Garp gets his job as a wrestling coach and they move in to the grandest house on the schoolgrounds, the Steering house.
Together with Roberta and others Garp runs the Jenny Fields foundation to allow Dogs Head Harbour to continue its function of being a save haven for women. Roberta Muldoon runs the place.
Some writings of Ellen James and Garp cause bitter reactions from the Ellen Jamesians directed at Garp, he survives a car that tried to crash into him but gets shot in the wrestling room by Pooh Percy, who also grew up at Steering at the same time he did. After this event there's a wrap up about the lives of his remaining family members.
The novel is dedicated to Colin and Brendan, sons of the author.
The story describes several decades. Writing, marriage and affairs, feminism, death, transsexuality, parenthood and sports are all themes of this modern novel.
Garp, main character, writer, wrestler
Jenny, Garps single mother, nurse, takes care of everyone
Helen, Garps wife, intelligent, English teacher.
Duncan Garps oldest son, loses an eye in the accident that killed Walt and later gets into a motorcycle accident. Artist. Marries a transsexual protégé of Roberta by the end of the book
Walt, Garps youngest son, inventor of the undertoad, dies in the car accident at age five
Roberta Muldoon, former Robert Muldoon the football player, the most colourfull character.
John Wolf, editor of both Garp and Jenny
Ellen James, rape victim that lost her tongue, becomes part of the Garp family as an adolecent after her parents die
Jenny, Garps daughter, takes care of her brother Duncan after his motorcycle accident and becomes a doctor.
Ernie Holmes, Helen's father and Garps wrestling coach
Percy family, Midge Percy is a decendant of the founder of the Steering school. She and her husband Steward have a lot of children, all with nicknames. One of them, Pooh Percy, kills Garp. Their dog Bonkers is a personal enemy of Garp.
The Fletchers, friends of the Garp's, Alice who is a writer and has an affair with Garp, Harrison wo is a teacher and has an affair with Helen.
The undertoad, Walt's name for the undertow, not a real character off course but a treathening feeling they get when something bad is about to happen. On the front cover of the book I own is a toad with a seashell.
Geplaatst op 17-10-2010.
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Reactie geplaatst op 2014-04-12.