MOTIVATION for READING: I have wanted to read this for a long time. Funny, I can’t really remember why I didn’t read it right away when my occasionally demanding father forbade me to read this book. This book in particular. No other books were included nor was a reason given that I recall. And by ‘occasionally demanding’, I mean that he didn’t often tell me what to “do/not do” but when he did, it always seemed random and interesting in comparison to other similar things he didn’t tell me I couldn’t do.
The funny thing to me, is that I don’t think this book was ever on my radar as a teen or young adult (Odd? I would have been 13 when this book was published and 17 when the movie came out — which I also have yet to see). In fact, for a long time, I thought this book was written by John Updike. So, you see, I really didn’t think it was a book for me anyway and rather than rushing to read it to find out why I wasn’t supposed to like any other normal teenager, I filed it away in my head. Wrongly, but still it sat there waiting for me. In fact, it was Dewey, I think, who corrected or suggested that I was probably not referring to John Updike as an author likely to be the degenerate influence I had presumed. I have never read Updike either. Should I?
I was a kid who seriously believed that lightening bolts would strike if I was deliberately disobedient. I believed in that far longer than I ever believed in Santa Claus, if I ever did.
All this to say that it took me a long time out of respect for my father’s wishes, I suppose, for me to ever decide I should read John Irving. I have read A Prayer for Owen Meany thanks to a readalong – loved it. And thanks to Owen Meany, I eventually came around to knowing I would someday read and love Garp. And boy did I! I did. (Now I want to reread Owen. Sigh…)
WHAT’s it ABOUT: OK, back to Garp… This book is about an interesting woman wanting to live life on her terms. It’s about her son, Garp. It’s about Garp growing up wanting to be a writer. He gets married, has children. He tries to protect his family from the all that could happen in a scary life in the scary world. (Maybe that is what my father was trying to do.) It’s about family, life and death, and dealing with death.
WHAT’s GOOD: The imagination. The deadpan humor. The absurdity. It feels to me like Irving is a master at making the absurd totally believable. When I see that quote of Neil Gaiman: “Things need not have happened to be true.“ — I tend to think of Irving. And WOW people! this is a timely book. A reminder that feminism is just getting started and still has a long way to go. A reminder that in some things, we were ahead of the times AND that we have slipped in our understandings. Feminism, transsexuals, rape culture, politics, open-mindedness, what is “family”? Garp was an authentic passionate talented guy who loved fiercely.
Books like this remind me that there were no “good ol’ days”; that humans can be vile, have always been vile, will continue to be vile; and yet still, humans can be kind.
What’s NOT so good: That even though I never saw the movie (yet – maybe even tonight, most likely this weekend), I still kept seeing John Lithgow as Roberta Muldoon. Not all the time, but often enough to hear his voice and see his face, with lipstick and rouge. That really isn’t a criticism and I probably shouldn’t mention it…
No pie was mentioned that was noticed.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Beware the undertoad.
RATING: Five slices of pie.