Monday, November 15, 2010

Psychologically disturbed

Current book: The World According to Garp
Pages read: 285 - 437 (end)

Sorry to keep you waiting, loyal readers. It was a complex week that involved no working out, the aforementioned cold, and a very sick cat. All is now well (including the cat), working out has resumed, and, as you can see, I've finished this terrible, terrible book.

I don't even know how to conclude the plot. The rest of the book covers everyone's life until he or she dies, but to no great effect. The Garps have another child and Garp writes an incredibly sexually violent book which is very popular. Garp's mother is shot and killed by a violent anti-feminist. Eventually Garp is killed, as well, because of an article he wrote decrying an extremist feminist group. Their kids grow up, and the epilogue follows everyone through his or her eventual death.

Honestly, it was just wretched at the end. I completely lost all patience with it and pretty much skimmed the last 75 pages or so. Everyone is either sexually transgressive, violent, or both, and after a while I just can't take that anymore. I don't know what the point is supposed to be except to make the reader vaguely nauseated. It sure had that effect on me.

Within the novel, the last book that Garp writes is called The World According to Bensenhaver, and I can't help but think that Irving is trying to point to himself with it. Garp's book, of which we are treated to the first chapter, begins with the disgustingly violent rape of a woman who kills her rapist while he's still raping her. Garp (Irving) shares every horrific detail. (I won't, because I'm not going to put you through that experience, but believe me, you're better off.) I wish I could unread it, really; I want not to have experienced reading it. Anyway, the point is that the critics of Garp's work call it, basically, what I'm calling it - disturbingly, pornographically violent. So what the hell is Irving doing by putting it in? Perhaps he's trying to defend his own book, (which I am also happy to call perversely disturbing and violent) from critics? Perhaps he's trying to say that the society that values a book like Garp's (and his own) is somehow sick? I have no idea; I just wish I hadn't had to go through the experience of reading it in order to be left wondering.

Ew. Just ew.

No list, Irving! It's not for you.

An addendum: I just looked at the New York Times review of the book from 1978, and in it the reviewer talks all about how the book will make you laugh with its absurdist treatment of violence, rape, and death. Whatever, Times reviewer. Laughing at this book never even occurred to me. And frankly, I worry about your sanity. Sure, the violence overblown and ridiculous, but that doesn't make it funny; it makes it even more sickening. Maybe I'm a Philistine, but if so, I'm happy to be one.

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