The World According to Garp

by John IrvingDutton, $10.95
This is a daring novel in several ways. It continually mixes the improbable and the mundane, juxtaposes slapstick, black humor, and tenderness. It traffics in chancy politics: feminist harpies stalk through its pages (women called “Ellen Jamesians” who for symbolic reasons have cut out their own tongues). It revels in grotesquerie but its purpose is to dramatize commonplace, fragile feelings. The World According to Garp chronicles the short, bizarre, but mostly happy life of a writer.
At its heart, the novel is about the love of a man for his wife, his children, his work, and himself. The book is flawed by John Irving’s occasional didacticism about art, and by his occasional sentimentality. But it is a novel of great imagination, vitality, and charm. Irving has published three previous books. None of them has been widely read, but one suspects that will no longer be the case.