Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sexual Behavior in the Human Male

Current book: The World According to Garp
Pages read: 120 - 215

You know, I thought I was going to like this book when I started it, and things seem to going downhill rapidly. Everything's getting tawdry and sensational for no good reason, and it's bothering me. It seems too much a product of the 70s right now, in that everyone spews insults and sounds like a semi-violent idiot. I can't really work with that. (I mean, really, we just met a character who called Garp "chickenshit" at least four times in as many pages. Who talks like that?)

Anyway, to move on to the plot: Garp finishes his short story and sends it to Helen, who agrees to marry him, and Jenny gets her book published. It sells phenomenally well, and suddenly Jenny and Garp are famous for being its author and subject, respectively. Garp hates it, of course, and Jenny collects a pack of feminist hangers-on, whom Garp also hates. Garp and Helen, however, have two children, both boys, and a fairly happy marriage. Garp writes two novels, neither of which is particularly popular, and spends the rest of his time as a homemaker. He has a couple of one-night stands with babysitters, which is pretty reprehensible, but eventually gets over his need for infidelity. Later, Helen and Garp have a weird four-way relationship with another couple they know, which ends with Helen making them stop and everyone else resenting her for it. (What did I say? 70s.)

It's pretty much just all twisted, strange domestic scenes. In the part right at the end of this section, Garp's older son, Duncan, goes to a friend's house to spend the night, and Garp, who's very overprotective, ends up checking on him at 1 am. He finds the friend's mother in bed with a younger man, whom she asks him to kick out. He does so, but then she, in a drunken haze, tries to seduce Garp and is angry when he won't sleep with her. (This is the part with all the "chickenshit" usage.) He ends up taking Duncan home, slung over his shoulder in a sleeping bag, and gets stopped by the cops, but manages to prove his innocence.

I seem to be failing to see the point. It started out as a book that seemed to be about the possible complexities of life and finding oneself. I think it's trying to continue to be that, but it's failing miserably. Everyone is cartoonishly reactionary. It kind of reminds me of White Noise, actually, the way the characters act toward each other. They're enraged or they're consumed with lust or they're weeping or they're laughing, but rarely are they somewhere in the middle. Add to that the odd and slightly disturbing sexual material, and things just seem overblown and ridiculous. I just can't relate to this much unorthodox sexual angst all in one place. Sometimes I feel like 70s authors are so bent on getting you to believe that this stuff happens all the time that they forget to include a story. Makes the novel rather difficult to relate to.

I'm hoping the sexual content settles down a little, or, at the very least, starts to contribute to the plot.

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