Tuesday, November 6, 2012

We're All Terminal Cases, Bucko

The World According to Garp
This book's Goodreads page.
This book's Shelfari page.
Let's face it--if I wrote a book about happy people living their lives in happiness and loving one another so much and getting married and kissing and aww! and cute!, not a freaking person would read it. The novel would make no appearances on any bestseller list. I would not be conducting any cross-country book tours. And this is because if there's no problem in a book, there's no reason to keep reading--the characters are the same people from cover to cover, and hell no are we the same people from birth until death.
     The World According To Garp by John Irving illustrates the many adventures and misadventures of T.S. Garp, who flagrant feminist Jenny Field conceived by arguably raping a mentally deficient World War II veteran. It is with this onset that Irving's recurring theme is introduced: that, to put it frankly, my dear, life sucks. Garp endures being shot down by his crush, assisting Jenny in a quest to interview prostitutes, dealing with the at times psychopathic feminist cults his mother lends a helping hand to, having his son die indirectly because Garp's wife cheated with a college student, writing books with lackluster popularity, and (spoiler alert!) dealing with the eventual assassination of his mother. As I was reading, The World According To Garp almost seemed to be a list of all negative experiences an everyman endured as narrated by a sarcastic asshole (Irving does have a taste for the satirical). The aforementioned alone would be enough to place the book in the high regards of the literary world, but the next step Irving takes truly makes this author deserve his literary-heavyweight status; what Irving does is, through a mixture of being sarcastic as well as illustrating defining moments in Garp's life as results of those moments which "sucked", teach us that these suckish parts of our existence are those which qualify our lives as parts of reality.
     Think about it in terms of a novel again--if your life was a book, would you buy this book if it only contained happiness, contained no heartache, no fracture in the grand scheme of perfection? I know I wouldn't. One reason why we love books is that they offer alternate realities. And although this reality is alternate, that does not mean this reality is not reality--reality demands that things change, that people change, and alternate realities therefore demand the same. And, as Irving shows us, defining moments in our lives--which usually contribute to changes in our personas--are results of those times when you just want to hunker down and spend the rest of your days with Cherry Garcia ice cream and a season collection of "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo."
     Forgive me for going all Dr. Phil on you now, but listen--I know life can suck. I know the ice cream carton and that gay pig named Sparkles (one of many significant cultural contributions the Honey Boo Boo Child has given America) call to you frequently. But understand that it is our hardships which make defining moments in our lives, therefore allowing us to change as people, therefore allowing us to be parts of reality. And even though reality includes so many negatives, are there not enough positives to at least partly compensate? Even if an extended family member commits suicide, a situation I have recently undergone, isn't there a positive in the amount to which this tragedy can teach people how to have sympathy, can bring people closer together?
     Hell to the yeah.


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