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Love it or Hate it? The World According to Garp

love-hate-baby

Have you ever noticed how some books seem to drive a wedge between people? You check the reviews and find almost no middle-of-the-road ratings. Instead people either seem to love it or hate it. Well, welcome to the Love it or Hate it post category! Each month, we’ll pick one book to review and two contributors will battle it out to convince you to pick it up or throw it out. Last time we discussed The Elegance of the Hedgehog. The “Love its” won with 57% of the vote. Many thanks to our reviewers. Linda was our Love it Reviewer and Cindy was our Hate it Reviewer.

This month’s selection is The World According to Garp by John Irving. It is another book that is on Boxall’s 1001 List of Books to Read Before you Die. So the question is… do you Love it or Hate it? Continue reading to find see our two reviews.

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Synopsis (from Goodreads): 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. In more than thirty languages, in more than forty countries–with more than ten million copies in print–this novel provides almost cheerful, even hilarious evidence of its famous last line: “In the world according to Garp, we are all terminal cases.”

Hate it (Reviewer A): About 10 years ago, I picked up “The World According to Garp” at the urging of my future wife. I’d had some bad experiences with John Irving, but she claimed “Garp” was one of her favorite books. Frankly it’s amazing I decided to marry her; liking “Garp” would have been a valid reason for dissolving our relationship. I made it through 200 pages before casting it aside. When asked recently to provide a review of “Garp,” I was determined to give Irving a fair shake and spent the better part of a month plowing through 500 pages of drivel.

Why do I hate this book? First and foremost, Irving’s style is pompous and extraordinarily verbose. Irving is clearly the type of author who’s enamored by the sound of his own voice. He think’s he’s hot shit as a writer and wants you to recognize his brilliance. There’s a certain smarminess that oozes off every page and a cocky self-assuredness that I found repulsive. Anytime an author inserts three short stories, ostensibly written by the main character, into an already bloated novel, you know the author just can’t get enough of himself. What makes it worse is that the three short stories are crap.

Second, the titular character is insufferable. While I don’t need my protagonists to be sympathetic or even likeable, they should at least be entertaining. Garp is probably the least interesting character in a book full of boring, two-dimensional characters. He whines, he cheats on his wife (repeatedly), he lacks any redeeming qualities, seems obsessed with sex (more on that later), and he’s holier-than-thou when his own life is a disaster. Now if Garp were presented as a cautionary tale or as a villain, he would be an acceptable character. But instead, the reader is meant to sympathize with him! Why would I want to spend 500 pages reading about this “heroic” loser and his boring, shitty life?

Now onto the sex. Don’t get excited. It’s not good. Sex in a book should further the plot, give us insight into the characters, or at least raise some emotion in the reader. The sex in this book seems gratuitous, often pointless, and overtly chauvinistic. The sex plays out like one long male fantasy of blowjobs, prostitutes, half-dressed neighbors, rape, and affairs with babysitters. C’mon John. You’re not at Phillips Exeter anymore imagining what sex might be like with your over-privileged schoolmates. Use your imagination. If you’re such a great author, prove it with more imaginative and tender sex scenes. Such misogynistic writing pervades the book including vastly different consequences paid by male and female characters for adultery and an extremely unflattering portrayal of the feminist movement.

The similarities between Garp and Irving are striking and well documented. However, in his author’s introduction, Irving dismisses questions regarding the autobiographical nature of the book and the book’s purpose as not of “compelling interest” to him. He claims, “if it’s a good novel, both the questions and answers are irrelevant.” Well John, the novel sucks. So the question remains, are you as an unimaginative and dull person as Garp or is there more to you?

Love it (Reviewer B): Yeah, I loved it. Funny. Engaging. Tragic. And, above all else, epic.

What do you think? Vote in our poll and tell is if you love it or hate it. If you haven’t read it, you can vote on whether you want to or not.

15 Comments Post a comment
  1. Hmmm, I didn’t love it but I liked it a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

    February 1, 2016
  2. Lynsey #

    Reviewer A convinced me. He touched on some of my biggest pet peeves in a book so am putting this on my Die before I read list. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    February 1, 2016
    • Definitely not a book I think you would enjoy Lynsey.

      Like

      February 1, 2016
    • I like the idea of a “Die Before I Read” list. I hated Owen Meany, so Reviewer A has me pretty convinced I’d put Garp on that list, too.

      Liked by 1 person

      February 1, 2016
  3. Tracy S #

    I guess if a book I read once, over twenty years ago, still sticks with me, while a book I read last week doesn’t, it’s in the love column. Not as good as Owen Meany, but still a great read for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    February 1, 2016
    • I did like Owen Meany too. I don’t remember anything about Garp although I gave it 4 stars (apparently).

      Like

      February 1, 2016
      • I was close between the two. I’m remembering that I liked Garp better – I was thinking 4 stars, but it looks like it was 3.75 stars for me. Owen Meany was 3.5. It could be that I’m remembering the movie Garp as 4 stars. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        February 1, 2016
  4. I gave this 4 stars but also read it about 20 years ago. Reading reviewer A’s review makes me think if i read it again, I’d hate it.

    Like

    February 1, 2016
  5. Anita #

    HA HA, ok, Reviewer A, I don’t agree with you at all, but I’m kinda praying that YOU wrote a book because I’d buy that book in a heartbeat. If you haven’t written a book, you’ve missed your calling. That review made my day . . .

    I’m guessing you are Jen’s husband. Look forward to the big reveal. If you are a blogger, I’m so following you after this.

    I loved Garp, but wished I hated it after reading your review.

    Liked by 1 person

    February 1, 2016
    • Reviewer A is most definitely NOT my husband. He is my nemesis. lol

      Like

      February 1, 2016
  6. JoLene R #

    This is an occasion where I saw the movie first — with Robin Williams, and Glen Close. I then read the book — I’m pretty sure I was in grad school because it was my grad school boyfriend who liked John Irving. I remember at the time liking it — I’m not sure if I would say love, but it was probably a 4 star for me. Like Jen, I’m not sure that I would feel the same way now.

    I did love A Prayer for Owen Meany though —- it is in my favorites category and I have re-read it several times.

    Like

    February 1, 2016
  7. I need a write-in option: will still read it, apprehensively. I’m pretty swayed by reviewer A’s argument, and that makes me feel like I need to read it to see for myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    February 1, 2016
  8. I read it around 25 years ago. There are passages that I still remember because of the shocking darkness of their humour, and others because of their tragedy. I think of it as a black, black comedy, with the excesses of behaviour illustrating how ridiculous it is to hold extreme, black & white opinions. I’m with reviewer B on this one. Reviewer A’s melodramatic loathing is a shade too much protestation. 😉

    Like

    February 1, 2016

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