My thoughts and reviews on books, TV shows and whatever else may come up. I have a lot of hobbies and interests and they may come up from time to time, but this will mostly be book and TV reviews and discussions

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The World According to Garp

I am still working out how to do these reviews. Lets start with my ranking. It will be a cliche stars system but let me give it a little more description. 1 star means I thought this book was terrible. I am not even sure why I read it or finished it. If it is one of the books from my list of 20th century greatest novels, I have to question why it even made it. Two stars means I see the literary value in it, it might have had a strong beginning and a weak end or vice versa. It might have been overly long or difficult to finish. It has something in it that will make me never want to read it again. Three stars means it will probably remain in my collection. I might not get around to reading it again, but I would like to have it so others can read it. It might some of the issues of a two star book, but not as glaring. These are great books to check out from the library if you are not a collector. Four stars, well it is hard to be perfect but this is getting close to the mark. I read a lot of different books, so it may be awhile before I get to this again, but I will. Five stars is a must have or must read recommendation. In my opinion (which this all is anyway) this would be a great book that almost anyone would enjoy. This is a book that I will try to read again and again.

Hopefully I will only need to do that once and this system will work. The first book up is the World According to Garp by John Irving. This book came out in 1978. On the combined list of greatest 20th century novels this one ranked 34. So a quick recap on the ratings basically 3 lists of the 100 greatest 20th century novels were combined into a ranked list of 223 books.

This is a bizarre and interesting book and is one of the tougher ones to review. Any kind of description or detail takes away some of the magic of reading this book the first time through. The book though follows the life of T.S. Garp. He is a writer, but for much of the book he is suffering from writers block or there is something else in his life is keeping him from writing.

Mixed in to the book narrative are pieces of Garp's novels or short stories. Honestly, I thought these were the weaker sections of the book, but there are not too many. Basically this becomes a character study of the Garp family, and they are an interesting lot. Garp is a writer of course. his mother Jenny Fields is a former nurse who is now a feminist leader. He marries his old wrestling coach's daughter Helen and starts a life with her. Eventually children come and we follow the interesting ups and downs as this slightly dysfunctional family.

For a book like this one of the shocking pieces may be the sex and violence. There is plenty of both in both Garp's writings and the story itself. It sometimes becomes so over the top to take away from the rest of the story. This book was a page turner though, and I never became to bogged down in it except for a few of the chapters dealing with Garp's writing. That is saying something because this book comes in just over 600 pages.

Like I said at the beginning this is one hard book to review, but it is also hard to rate. I am not sure if I would want to slog through some of the sex, but especially the violence so I am going with 3 out 5 stars. This is very, very close to 4.

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