Sunday, February 03, 2013

THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP by John Irving (1976), Random House, 609 pages

The older I get the more I read early John Irving in gob-smacked wonder. He writes such humanity in these frangible, indelible characters.

Recently I struggled with a decision to leave a job that had brought me tremendous joy in the classroom for fifteen years, because of an incident that I simply could not stomach. And, for the first time in about two decades, I returned to The World According to Garp for solace and discovered that Garp’s thoughts mirrored my own: “Not for awhile. Maybe never again. At least not for awhile.”

Irving was so young when it was published in 1976, but he already understood so much about human frailty and dignity—a quality equally vibrant throughout his most recent novel In One Person. As I read, I raged alongside Jenny Fields, cheered Roberta, and wept with Garp, heaving hiccupping sobs of recognition. The Under Toad. Jesus. Such insight. A gasping punch to my solar plexus.

As Garp insists, "Read the work. Forget the life." 

John Irving’s work matters. And, I love knowing that each of his narratives unfurls from its final sentence, which never alters once he has committed it to the page. If you’ve never read The World According to Garp, you must add it to your TBR pile, because you will recognize yourself between its pages. For, “in the world according to Garp, we are all terminal cases.”

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