Michael's Reviews > The World According to Garp

The World According to Garp by John Irving
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's review
Jun 27, 2009

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Read in October, 2008 , read count: 1

The World According to Garp is pretty much a brilliantly written novel about a bunch of crap I don't care one bit about. I mean, it's kept me going for more than 500 pages, but I'm starting to get tired of it. It's like an epic biopic that everyone knows will win an Oscar, you know?

The thing about it is that it's about a writer, and I hate it when writers write about writers. Also, he's a literary writer, who writes thinly disguised biographical fiction. The author includes snippets of and sometimes the entire texts of the "main character's" short stories/novel chapters, which is somewhat interesting and I guess necessary to understand who he is and what he's about, but it doesn't advance the plot of the novel at all.

I find myself wanting the damned story to be over so I can get on with it.

All that being said, the prose is gorgeous. It's easily the best written novel I've read this year, and I can't wait to finish it so I can get onto something that I enjoy.

Maybe it's just that I'm technically living a writer's life, but this book is simply not an escape for me. I'm not saying that Garp's life mimics mine one tiny bit, but I am saying that there are no zombies in this book. Not one single vampire. I'm pretty sure a sword has never been mentioned, and the closest we get to space is an airplane, the closest to an alien world, Vienna.

If you have ever enjoyed a fictional biography or a literary novel, this one's for you. It's exceptionally well-written, with sentence-level prose that just sings. It's simply elegant writing, not ostentatious or self-important. It expertly avoids the hard-and-fast rules that I've set up as benchmarks for strong fiction at least 99% of the time. And that's hard to do. I wish I could say the same for George RR Martin, so far the only author to earn a 5/6 on my scale.

An exceptional piece of well-written fiction, not quite strong enough to appease those who are strictly genre readers, The World According to Garp is still a more worthwhile read than a lot of stuff out there, and I recommend you pick it up and give it a shot.

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