Commentary Magazine


Garp's World

To the Editor:

I appreciated Richard Grenier’s review of The World According to Garp [“Garp: Violence for the Educated,” September 1982]. I tried to read this much-recommended book but put it down in discomfort after reading only part of it. Although I am a psychologist who is psychoanalytically trained, I really could not explain why I was made uncomfortable by the book (though I didn’t try too hard to do so). Mr. Grenier’s analysis is convincing. I could never abide sick jokes, or scatological jokes, or anything that laughs at human pain or injury. My thanks to Mr. Grenier for illuminating an important topic.

Ephraim Friend
Flushing, New York

_____________

 

To the Editor:

After John Irving had been lionized by literary critics as our own Charles Dickens, and adopted by the women’s movement as an honorary feminist, I had assumed the world had finally gone completely mad. Then I read Richard Grenier’s excellent article and my faith in humanity was restored.

I was repulsed by Irving’s book. The reader is never allowed to believe in the characters or their actions. Instead, Irving keeps zapping us with bizarre happenings that never allow us to get our bearings. It is an attempt at black comedy, pitched too high for human ears. Like many hack writers, Irving starts with sick punchlines and builds his jokes around them. He resembles a sleazy horror-movie director who believes the more excess there is, the better the work. It is an infantile brand of nihilism that cheapens all emotion.

The movie has been adapted by an innocuous writer, known for trivializing serious subjects (the 60′s and the 70′s, etc.), stars a “nice” TV actor, and features cute music, but it cannot conceal Irving’s ugly view of life. This is a film that claims to be an ode to life, yet it is filled with acts of senseless mayhem. It is also supposed to be a classic of women’s liberation, but Irving . . . has created women characters whose actions cause mutilation, disfigurement, and death, If John Irving isn’t a first-class misanthrope, I don’t know who is.

Dan O’Neill
Los Angeles, California

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