The World According to Garp and Other Sexual Embarrassments

I have my book club meeting tonight. We read The World According to Garp by John Irving. It wasn't the first time I'd read it.

I find the book disturbing and yet I enjoy reading it. "Like a car wreck," as they say. I love John Irving's writing, but I also agree with Poe Ballentine, who famously wanted to punch him in the face for constantly giving detailed descriptions of little boys' penises.

Maybe it's because I mostly read teen fiction, but John Irving's sexual descriptions constitute too much information for me. But then I have to wonder, would I really like the books as much without it? And the answer is no, I wouldn't like the books as much without the explicit sexual details. They just wouldn't be the same. Garp would not be the same character if we didn't know that he came to being because Jenny Fields molested a mentally disabled war veteran, in all of its explicit detail.

I like being an American, but I also think it's a really American thing to talk too much about one's sex life. At the tender age of nineteen, I ran away to Paris for a few weeks. Walking down the Champs Elysee with my dear friend Jennifer (Okay, so Becca was there, too, but she doesn't play a big role in my memory, Miss "Frankly I'd rather be in Germany..."). Where was I? Yes, nineteen years old, walking down Champs Elysee, in Gay Paris in the Springtime, there was a tour bus load of Americans walking in front of us. A woman was saying, in a clear midwest accent,--- I don't want to say what she said, actually. Suffice to say that she was laying out her sex life in all its explicit details for all of Gay Paris in the Springtime to hear. And I didn't want to hear it! Not at all! Not one little bit! She made me ashamed to be an American.

We do tend to say too much.

I guess writers usually write about sex, regardless of what country they are from... or do they?

I have an acquaintance who is a writer, Alex Bledsoe. I set about to reading all of his books, once I figured out how he made his living. They are very good books, especially The Hum and the Shiver, but what was shocking to me was all of the explicit sex in his vampire novels. I mean, they were fantastic books, but I felt they would be rated X if made into films. This does not actually diminish their greatness in the slightest, but of course, the next time I ran into Alex around town, I blushed. I felt incredibly awkward. I thought, Really? This guy wrote that?

I'm just a prude, I guess. Or a hypocrite, perhaps. I will never write about sex.


  1. I am so happy you are writing this blog again!

  2. I'm happy too!(about the blog activity) Btw, re: the Garp sexual in particular, will never fade from my memory. Yikes! Particularly gruesome for men...what quirky creativity Irving's got!

  3. Thanks!

    But, yeah, I think I know the one thing that will never fade from my memory, either! The thing that inspires Garp to write the note, "Three-quarters is not enough," to Helen, but then throw it away.