Cliches and Lust Apr 5, 2007
As I read on the beach, people would wander up and ask if I was enjoying the book. I had no real answer. Irving puts forth that it is a book about lust and he is right. Life can be described as a competition of lusts (there are beneficial lusts, afterall), but there was far too much sexual lust for my taste. I still read it cover to cover. I can't quite explain why, but I know the answer lies with Garp... and Jenny and Helen and, appropriately, Jillsy. John Irving has created characters that stay with you. They make sense in their extremes. They are the salt of the earth and are caricatures. You will grow so attached to them that you will feel genuine disappointment at their mistakes and heartache at their hurts. I didn't realize how wonderfully constructed the characters were until it was time to give them up.
Irving pulls no punches, so know that anything can happen once you pick up this book. Be willing to be appalled, challenged, inspired and left without answers. Perhaps the only commercial part of the book is that there is an epilogue. The answers that you are left without are the ones that arise within you when you have laid the book aside. I hate to use the old cliche, but it happens. Garp turns your insides around and, once it is over, you are left to ask some hard questions. I don't know how, but John Irving does that every time. That is why this review is not about his writing, but about his ideas. His writing is top-of-the-line. The story catches you before you know it. That is what he does. You don't need this review to know that.
Did I like it? I'm still not sure. I know that I am not ready to trade in my copy to the used bookstore. I think it will remain in my collection for some time.
(A small recommendation goes to those of you who have not read any other books by John Irving. Read "A Prayer for Owen Meany," then read this. Owen is a gentler beginning than Garp.)