The World According to Garp by John Irving – A Book Review

There are some books in existence that are simply must-reads.  The World According to Garp is very much one of those books. 

Irving has written a novel of such simple complexity that it astounds the reader time after time.  With this novel the statement is conveyed that all the nuances of life are important; every minute of your day, no matter how mundane, is integral to your overall existence.  You never know what seemingly insignificant instant will arise to change your life in ways unfathomable at the most unexpected of moments.  This is something we’ve all probably thought about at some junction of our lives, but never have I seen it take place in a novel as seamlessly and expertly as in The World According to Garp.

We meet Garp long before he is born in this novel, and we follow his story long after he is gone.  (This is ruining nothing of the plot, the chapters on the contents page tell you as such.)  I’m not sure most of us would like Garp if we knew him in our regular lives, but he is a character of such complexity, of such “trueness,” that one can’t help but become enamored with him.  His victories are our victories.  His mistakes are our mistakes.  His neuroses are our neuroses, and so on.  You will see something of yourself in Garp, and it will probably be an aspect you are not particularly proud of.

This story is epic in plot, though you don’t realize it until you’ve finished reading.  The sentences are expertly rendered, the characters are developed just enough without becoming superfluous; everything about this book works.  In my mind, it is an instant classic, to be cherished and read by all.

The 158-Pound Marriage by John Irving – A Book Review

This is the second book I’ve read by Irving, and I have to admit he’s quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.

The book is about two married couples who meet well after they’ve each established a family and mode of life.  Though neither couple seemingly would have considered such a thing before, they begin to swap partners without secrecy.  It becomes a normal occurrence for them, and they even go so far as to vacation together.

One of the characters is a wrestling aficionado (not an uncommon occurrence in Irving’s writing) and thus you get the title and all sorts of easily accessible wrestling lingo.  In fact, he dedicates a chapter to each character in the beginning of the book, establishing background, and he literally divides them by weight class. 

Of course, such things as spouse swapping are bound to fall apart, and the reader experiences the full implosion as both couples must deal with their “break-up” and the new dynamic it introduces both into their own marriages and with each other as “friends.”

Though the story was a bit more sexually graphic than I’m accustomed to reading, Irving’s style captivates me.  He is truly a master at craft, plot, and characterization.  And best of all, his stories burrow into your being and you can’t help but become enthralled with his character’s lives.

I look forward to reading more of Irving’s work.