Tag Archives: Literature

Link’n’Blogs – 6.16.17 – Fictional Fathers


Related Content from And There Came A Day


I loved Lincoln Logs when I was a kid. Though I never entertained the idea that I would be a designer, engineer or architect, something about putting together these wooden and plastic pieces was simply simple fun. Connecting to ideas through the blogosphere seems similar to this pursuit, hence the title of this weekly post. Each Friday, I intend to post something interesting I’ve read out there on the internets. Hopefully others will find these posts as thought provoking as I have.

Father’s Day is this weekend. Who are you favorite fathers in fiction? I found a list that’s pretty solid, non-comic-book-y and inclusive of my personal favorite literary character of all time (and, no, it’s NOT To Kill a Mockingbird‘s Atticus Finch, though he’s up there!)… Click the photo!

Atticus Finch

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Filed under Family, Fathers and Daughters, Fathers and Sons, Fathers Day, Literature

A Reader’s House

I was guest lecturing in The Cinnamon Girl’s Sociology class last week (speaking about The Portrayals of Women in American Comic Books) and I found myself – as I always do when I am in front of a captive audience – joking around. I teased the students about reading in the 21st Century, explaining to them what a “book” is and telling them they should try opening one for pleasure and fun sometime. Following the class, I was gently taken to task by two students who identified themselves as “life-long read readers.”  They proceeded to tell me about all the books they were currently reading to make their point.

It was a fun exchange and made me realize two things: I love opportunities to talk about reading with kids and I, too, identify myself as a life-long reader.

bookshelves

When I was young, I would descend the stairs in my grandparents’ house, always careful to be sure the lights were on in the basement to ward off any ghosts or other scary things before I did.  I would creep down through the hallway, past the telephone table and into the big room beyond. There were three or four large shelves packed with paperbacks in there and those shelves were what drew me to that recess of their house. They were both readers, Grandma and Grandpa, and they had hundreds of novels. I would switch on the light and scan their shelves, looking for something to catch my interest. From those shelves, I pulled and read Coma by Robin Cook and The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton. I found The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy and Trinity by Leon Uris. I borrowed Centennial by James Michener and The World According to Garp by John Irving.

More than a few of these books made indelible and lasting impacts on me, especially my reading of The World According to Garp, and I know that I never thanked my grandparents for opening this world to me for who recognizes how important these moments in our lives are when we’re living them? I also don’t remember what happened to their collection when my grandmother moved out of her house years ago. I am sure it was not as vast a gathering of novels as I recall, but it was a fairly large one to be sure. I ought to have grabbed a couple paperbacks for myself.

There is a realization here. Though The Cinnamon Girl and I have many books in our home, we don’t have anywhere near the amount we used to. Because of this, our kids and grand kids (grand kids who will arrive YEARS AND YEARS from now) will not be able to see what we’ve read by walking along the shelves of the living room. They will not run their hands along the spines of the books or pull them down from the shelves.  They won’t regard our home as an adjunct library.

And I think that’s a loss.

I love my Kindle app on my iPad. I love being able to read and night and not keep The Cinnamon Girl awake. I love being able to “shop” at any hour and download books in seconds to my device. The convenience is wonderful. I have also adjusted to feeding my weekly comic book addiction digitally though Comixology, an application owned by Amazon. I should be embarrassed to admit that I buy anywhere between 7-10 comic books a week. While one could have worse addictions, 7-10 physical comic books a week pile up. Literally. Having them on the iPad alleviates this issue.

I have embraced technology for my reading and, while I am a collector, I know that I cannot collect everything. The house isn’t that big and the desire to continue to collect may not be that healthy.

But I have come to realize that, while most of my shift to digital is positive, there is a significant drawback which I don’t really know how to address.

No one can walk through our living room and see everything we’ve read.

And yet, we still live in a reader’s house. Now we just talk with people more frequently about what we’re reading. That’s a plenty good thing, too.

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Filed under Anecdote, Books, Comic Books, Family, Literature, Reading

The World According To Garp – A Book Review

GarpI am not sure when I first read John Irving’s The World According to Garp. I know that I was young, like middle-school young. I know that I pulled it down from the massive shelf of books that my grandparents had in their basement. I suspect I was searching through those books for covers that showed something salacious – some scantily clad women or some romantic scene that I thought would be played out within the selected books’ pages – to tantalize my teenage libido. My guess is that the cover to Garp showed something like that and, for this reason, I took the book home with me.

That, today, I would consider The World According to Garp wildly age inappropriate for someone in middle school didn’t cross my or anyone else’s mind when I was working my way through its pages. No doubt I was pleased with myself for attempting to read an “adult” book – my motives for doing so notwithstanding, and I guess my parents were happy to see me reading anything that didn’t feature Batman, Superman or other so-called “four-color heroes.”

I can hardly imagine what I understood from the book on my initial reading. Having revisited it on a couple of occasions in my adulthood, most recently earlier this spring, I can barely articulate what I get out of it now!

One thing that I certainly took away from the book was my love of the prose of John Irving. Upon first completing that novel, I knew that I loved Irving. That is an affection that has stayed with me my entire life and I look forward to the publication of each of his works. A Prayer for Owen Meany remains, far-and-away, my favorite of his books, but The World According to Garp cracks the top five mainly because you always have a special place in your heart for your first, don’t you?

The World According to Garp tells the story of T.S. Garp, novelist and seeker, whose complicated relationships with the women in his life propel the book through multiple vignettes, each more outlandish than the last. Each stage in the main character’s life is passed in association with women and Irving populates his novel with a fascinating collection of them. One of the critiques of the book is that, while the women may be fascinating, they may not be entirely realistically drawn. That’s a pretty fair assessment, I think. Where Garp is a fully realized creation, even the most important women in the book can be stereotyped to a certain extent. Likely, Irving knew this and, skilled writer as he is, employed stereotypical women for a reason: to make his point about sexual relationships and sexual politics in the 1970s.

As one might expect, Garp’s most powerful connections are with his mother and his wife. From his mother, Jenny Fields – the author of the account of her own life entitled A Sexual Suspect, Garp discovers that not all popular writing is good writing and that radical feminism was a growing tide to be reckoned with in late 20th century America. From his wife, Helen Holm – English professor and intellectual, Garp discovers that even those who know and love you best may not always fully understand you.

A motif that Irving returns to in many of his works is introduced here: writing-within-writing. Apparently suggesting to J.D. Salinger that, if you’re going to write about someone writing something brilliant and make that idea a cornerstone of you narrative, you better actually show the goods, Irving supplies examples of Garp’s prose throughout the novel. The stories the main character writes are esoteric and inscrutable but, thematically, always tied to Irving’s main purpose: that of showing his main character trying to understand his path through life.

At its core, The World According to Garp asks the fundamental question: what does it all mean? That Irving leaves the answer to the question up to the reader is hardly surprising. Great works of fiction – and The World According to Garp is surely one – pose the questions and prod the reader to engage upon them before letting the reader make up her or his mind on their own.

Some of the themes that will permeate Irving’s books are on display in The World According to Garp. Life is charged by sexuality. People are slaves to it or liberated by it. Men need to know who their fathers are to be whole. Life can be violent. Death can be a sweet release. These ideas, powerful and clear, are addressed, time-and-again, in Irving’s books and, in later works, to better effect. But they are first on view here and watching the author work with them is exciting. Also on full display is Irving’s ability to create Dickensian characters who populate the imagination long after the reading of the book is complete. Interweaving the stories of a myriad cast of characters into the life of a single protagonist is a strength of the author and it really stared in The Wold According to Garp. Characters are introduced for a reason. No characters’ story is unimportant. They are all tied into Irving’s broader themes.  Upon completion of The World According to Garp, the reader knows that Irving is something special.

Hell, I understood that in the 8th grade. And, while I’ve not loved everything I’ve read by him, I have loved him enough to sample everything he’s ever published.

The World According to Garp is a complex novel about significant themes. I cannot say that I agree with Garp’s conclusion – that everyone is a terminal case – but I can say that I don’t know upon my re-reading of the book that Irving agrees with that conclusion, either. Bad things happen in The World According to Garp, the types of bad things that can destroy people, that can make them run and hide from the world, that can batter them senseless. Garp might experience moments of retreat and there are certainly times when he’s cut off from both his writing and his voice, but he never gives in. He never considers himself a terminal case.

In the end, The World According to Garp is a hopeful novel. In fact, all of Irving’s works are and that conclusion keeps me coming back.

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Filed under Book Review, John Irving, The World According to Garp