First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
This is the life and times of T.S. Garp, the bastard son of Jenny Fields – a feminist leader ahead of her times. This is the life and death of a famous mother and her almost-famous son; theirs is a world of sexual extremes – even of sexual assassinations. It is a novel rich with “lunacy and sorrow”; yet the dark, violent events of the story do not undermine a comedy both ribald and robust. In more than thirty languages, in more than forty countries – with more than ten million copies in print – this novel provides almost cheerful, even hilarious evidence of its famous last line: “In the world according to Garp, we are all terminal cases.”
And it is the weekend again! Happy Friday everyone! I hope that everyone will enjoy the weekend and we will all be able to rest and recuperate. Also, I hope that you were all able to accomplish everything you wanted to accomplish at the start of the week. Woah. We are already midway through the tenth month of the year. Time is certainly zooming past us. With the year dwindling down to its final days, I hope that your prayers have been answered. I hope that all you worked hard for in the past months will get repaid. More importantly, I hope you are doing well, in your body, mind, and spirit. I hope everyone will stay healthy. As we enter the last two and a half months of the year, I hope that the rest of the year will be kind and gentle to everyone.
Before I can dive into the weekends, let me close this week with a First Impression Friday update. Even before September ended, I already planned October to be its extension. As such, I have been immersing myself in the works of American literature for the past six weeks. The main goal is to tick off as many books as I can from my active reading challenges. You see, toward the end of August, I realized that I have been lagging behind on some of my reading goals. My tendency to meander (reading-wise that is) made me neglect these challenges. Thankfully, there is still time to make up for lost time and I must say that I have covered quite a good ground. Interestingly (or perhaps not), several of the unread books in these reading challenges are part of American literature, hence, September and October transforming into American literature reading months.
My immersion into the works of American literature brought me to New England, with John Irving’s The World According to Garp. The titular Garp is T.S. Garp, the bastard son of Jenny Fields, a nurse born into an affluent family. His father was a Technical Sergeant Garp, who was severely brain-damaged in combat. When Jenny found herself pregnant by the war veteran, Jenny named the child T.S., a name derived from Technical Sergeant. Because she bore a child out of wedlock, Jenny was disowned by her family. But Jenny was made of sterner stuff. On her own, she raised Garp while working at the all-boys Steering School in New England. To gain an advantage, Jenny attended classes at the school. The advantage, however, was not for her but for her son. She took the classes so that she can recommend to Garp which teachers and classes to attend.
Jenny was quite the stage mom and she even made the effort to choose a sport for her “unathletic” son when he had an athletics class. The sport of choice: wrestling. Lo and behold, Garp excelled in the sport he even represented his school in state championships. Getting involved in the sport would also prove pivotal in the young Garp’s life as it was through it that he met his future wife, Helen, the daughter of his wrestling coach. So yes, the story is about Garp. So what are my impressions of Garp? He was eccentric and for an Irving character that summarizes it. Irving’s main characters are often complex and eccentric. A Prayer for Owen Meany‘s Owen Meany and The Cider House Rules‘ Homer Wells were also cut from the same cloth. What sets Garp apart was that he was not suffering, at least palpably, from any physical or psychological afflictions the other two characters had. Garp was, from the looks of it, just eccentric. All three characters were also observed from a safe distance and the story rarely deeps dive into their psychological profile.
Apart from Garp, what really captures me about Irving’s novels is their many layers. On the surface, the premise always seemed straightforward. They rarely are. Sure, one of the primary themes of the story was family dynamics, the dysfunctional type that is. We read about infidelities, sexual overtures, family tragedies, and marital bliss. Garp and Helen’s love story, if one can call it that, was also not the straightforward type. The couple had two sons, Duncan and Walt, although they are planning to have another one after a pivotal event that altered the course of their life and made them realize their failures. So yes, there were redemption arcs that were vividly woven into the tapestry of the novel.
I have mentioned the novel is multilayered. It grappled with feminism as well. Jenny Fields, Garp’s mother was a popular feminist writer and a staunch activist. Garp, on the other hand, was also a writer. He wrote at least two novels – as far as I have read into the story – that were moderately successful but not successful enough to step out of the shadows of his more popular mother. Garp’s short stories were also integrated into the novel, rendering it an interesting complexion. Parts of the writing process, captured by Irving, were among the novel’s most interesting facets. What comes across is Irving’s balance of humor and seriousness, although the humor can be dry, or deadpan. I guess this is because of the distance between the reader and the main character. Despite this distance, Garp, and Irving’s main characters in general, are compelling and even make up for great character studies.
I am less than 200 pages away from completing the story and I can’t wait to read how the story of Garp and Helen would pan out. I think it will be a happy one and might just be a coming-of-age of some sort for the couple. Because of the diversity and the vastness of the United States and its denizens, writers have risen to represent particular states, localities, or groups of people. The works of Louise Erdrich, for instance, remind me of the Dakotas. Nicholas Sparks, on the other hand, represents North Carolina, Candace Bushnell New York City, and Jackie Collins Hollywood. Meanwhile, the works of the late Pat Conroy evoke the atmosphere of South Carolina. John Irving and his works are also giving me that same effect. They now remind me of New England.
How about you fellow reader? What book or books are you taking with you for the weekend? I hope you get to enjoy them. For now, happy weekend! And as always, happy reading and take care!