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The World According to Garp
Cover of The World According to Garp
The World According to Garp
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A special 40th anniversary edition of the bestselling coming-of-age classic novel by John Irving, with a new introduction by the author.
"He is more than popular. He is a Populist, determined to keep alive the Dickensian tradition that revels in colorful set pieces...and teaches moral lessons."—The New York Times

The opening sentence of John Irving's breakout novel, The World According to Garp, signals the start of sexual violence, which becomes increasingly political. "Garp's mother, Jenny Fields, was arrested in Boston in 1942 for wounding a man in a movie theater." Jenny is an unmarried nurse; she becomes a single mom and a feminist leader, beloved but polarizing. Her son, Garp, is less beloved, but no less polarizing.
From the tragicomic tone of its first sentence to its mordantly funny last line—"we are all terminal cases"—The World According to Garp maintains a breakneck pace. The subject of sexual hatred—of intolerance of sexual minorities and differences—runs the gamut of "lunacy and sorrow." Winner of the National Book Award, Garp is a comedy with forebodings of doom. In more than thirty languages, in more than forty countries—with more than ten million copies in print—Garp is the precursor of John Irving's later protest novels.
A special 40th anniversary edition of the bestselling coming-of-age classic novel by John Irving, with a new introduction by the author.
"He is more than popular. He is a Populist, determined to keep alive the Dickensian tradition that revels in colorful set pieces...and teaches moral lessons."—The New York Times

The opening sentence of John Irving's breakout novel, The World According to Garp, signals the start of sexual violence, which becomes increasingly political. "Garp's mother, Jenny Fields, was arrested in Boston in 1942 for wounding a man in a movie theater." Jenny is an unmarried nurse; she becomes a single mom and a feminist leader, beloved but polarizing. Her son, Garp, is less beloved, but no less polarizing.
From the tragicomic tone of its first sentence to its mordantly funny last line—"we are all terminal cases"—The World According to Garp maintains a breakneck pace. The subject of sexual hatred—of intolerance of sexual minorities and differences—runs the gamut of "lunacy and sorrow." Winner of the National Book Award, Garp is a comedy with forebodings of doom. In more than thirty languages, in more than forty countries—with more than ten million copies in print—Garp is the precursor of John Irving's later protest novels.
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    BOSTON MERCY

    Garp's mother Jenny Fields, was arrested in Boston in 1942 for wounding a man in a movie theater. This was shortly after the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor and people were being tolerant of soldiers, because suddenly everyone was a soldier, but jenny Fields was quite firm in her intolerance of the behavior of men in general and soldiers in particular. In the movie theater she had to move three times, but each time the soldier moved closer to her until she was sitting against the musty wall, her view of the newsreel almost blocked by some silly colonnade, and she resolved she would not get up and move again. The soldier moved once more and sat beside her.

    jenny was twenty-two. She had dropped out of college almost as soon as she'd begun, but she had finished her nursing-school program at the head of her class and she enjoyed being a nurse. She was an athletic-looking young woman who always had high color in her cheeks; she had dark, glossy hair and what her mother called a mannish way of walking (she swung her arms), and her rump and hips were so slender and hard that, from behind, she resembled a young boy. In jenny's opinion, her breasts were too large; she thought the ostentation of her bust made her look "cheap and easy."

    She was nothing of the kind. In fact, she had dropped out of college when she suspected that the chief purpose of her parents' sending her to Wellesley had been to have her dated by and eventually mated to some well-bred man. The recommendation of Wellesley had come from her older brothers, who had assured her parents that Wellesley women were not thought of loosely and were considered high in marriage potential. jenny felt that her education was merely a polite way to bide time, as if she were really a cow, being prepared only for the insertion of the device for artificial insemination.

    Her declared major had been English literature, but when it seemed to her that her classmates were chiefly concerned with acquiring the sophistication and the poise to deal with men, she had no trouble leaving literature for nursing. She saw nursing as something that could be put into immediate practice, and its study had no ulterior motive that jenny could see (later she wrote, in her famous autobiography, that too many nurses put themselves on display for too many doctors; but then her nursing days were over).

    She liked the simple, no-nonsense uniform; the blouse of the dress made less of her breasts; the shoes were comfortable, and suited to her fast pace of walking. When she was at the night desk, she could still read. She did not miss the young college men, who were sulky and disappointed if you wouldn't compromise yourself, and superior and aloof if you would. At the hospital she saw more soldiers and working boys than college men, and they were franker and less pretentious in their expectations; if you compromised yourself a little, they seemed at least grateful to see you again. Then, suddenly, everyone was a soldier-and full of the self-importance of college boys-and jenny Fields stopped having anything to do with men. "My mother," Garp wrote, "was a lone wolf."


    From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author-
  • JOHN IRVING, born in Exeter, New Hampshire, published his first novel, Setting Free the Bears, when he was twenty-six. His most popular novel world-wide is A Prayer for Owen Meany, published in 1989. In 2000, Mr. Irving won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Cider House Rules. In 2013, he won the Lambda Literary Award for Bisexual Fiction for In One Person. In 2018, he was the recipient of a Dayton Literary Peace Prize, the Richard C. Holbrooke Award for Distinguished Achievement. Mr. Irving competed as a wrestler for twenty years and coached wrestling until he was forty-seven. He is a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma. John Irving lives in Toronto.
Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine T.S. Garp, named for his father's dying gasps, leads an unconventional life whether he wants to or not in this seriocomic bestseller. Michael Prichard ignores the humor and, indeed, all values in the prose except perhaps for the punctuation. He declaims as if narrating a documentary on the Biography channel. However, dull as this sounds, it actually works. After five or ten minutes, one loses the sense of the narrator's presence. Only the words speak. Y.R. (c) AudioFile, Portland, Maine
  • AudioFile Magazine Revisiting this literary classic is both bittersweet and heartwarming. The new introduction to this 40th anniversary edition, written and read by the author, brings a fresh perspective to the groundbreaking novel. This feminist story of colorful characters is a still a Dickensian depiction of sexual repression, prejudice, and bias. Narrator MacLeod Andrews delivers a mellifluous tone and empathetic representations of Jenny Fields, the enigmatic mother and feminist firebrand; T.S. Garp, her almost immaculately conceived son; and Helen, the daughter of the high school wrestling coach who is Garp's pragmatic and inscrutable wife. Hearing the decades-old voices instills the listener with a sense of nostalgia about the innocence of the times and the hope for a more inclusive future, epitomized by Garp's journey. R.O. � AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine
  • Chicago Sun-Times "The most powerful and profound novel about women written by a man in our generation . . . Like all extraordinary books, Garp defies synopsis. . . . A marvelous, important, permanent novel by a serious artist of remarkable powers."
  • The New Republic "Nothing in contemporary fiction matches it. . . . Irving's blend of gravity and play is unique, audacious, almost blasphemous. . . . Brilliant, funny, and consistently wise; a work of vast talent."
  • Washington Post "A wonderful novel, full of energy and art, at once funny and horrifying and heartbreaking."
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