considerable press comment on ThenWorld According to Garp has been stimulatednby the reviewers’ hope that theirnremarks will be reprinted in a futurennovel by Irving, or in a posthumous onenby Garp.nWhy a professional novelist mightnwallow in autobiography of the mostnobvious kind should be viewed with understanding—ifnwithout compassion ornordinary human kindness. From whennthe typical author awakes in thenmorning, or in the afternoon, he faces anday of professionally unnecessary selfabsorption.nOver a light lunch with hisnwife he might discuss his past work:n”In ‘The Pension Grillparzer,’ ” he mightnsay, to mention a story of both Irving’snand Garp’s, “I somehow struck the chordnof comedy (on the one hand) and compassionn(on the other). The story didnnot belittle the people in the story—neither with forced cuteness or with anynother exaggeration rationalized as necessarynfor making a point. Neither did thenstory sentimentalize the people, or otherwisencheapen their sadness.” A thoughtnWhitcomb [Garp’s disciple] was so awednthat he wrote this down.”)nThe narcissism of Artists, howevernnauseating, cannot simply be categorizednas another symptom of today. It is insteadnpart, the underside, of the Great Tradition,nextending back to ancient times.nPerhaps it can be confessed at thisnpoint, without fear of being charged withnsycophancy, that John Irving is a veryngood writer, nearly as good as Garp saysnhe is. He has a way with words, a facilitynfor language, the storyteller’s gift, annatural talent, the ability to spin a yarn,nand —for sheer readability—extraordinarynnarrative power. Sometimesnthese talents are put to good use, especiallynin the intervals of quiet domesticncomedy. When the Garps’ five-year-oldnson Walt is warned about the wickednundertow off a New England beach, henmisconstrues it as a monstrous “UndernToad” in. the surf. But, as it turns out,nthe delightful scene of the Under Toadnis merely part of the build-up for one ofnthe most contrived car accidents in literature.nAnother somewhat amusingnmoment is when Jillsy Sloper, then”It is not to find words in which to coinex rlu’ jcn. ihe (.•.xcitenu-ni, thenpassion this superb novel evokes.”n-riihlishcrs Weeklyn”The way he filters them [the character’s siiuaiions ihrougii iiis lii-rn’snunique imagination, we not only laugh at the world accordiiii: to (iarp. but wiaLsonaccept it and love it.”n— Sen- York limesn”Garp’s world, strange and awful as it is, is one li-.d VN’orld.”n— Sew rimesn”John Irving is so subtle.”noccurs to him while taking out the trash:n”I am in danger of limiting my ability asna writer in a fairly usual way: writingnessentially about myself.” While walkingnhis pooch he contemplates what henmight tell a future biographer about thennovelist’s craft, as Garp actually doesntell his future biographer. (“YoungnISnChronicles of CulturenStjtnrdiiY Rcvivtrncleaning lady and secret manuscriptnevaluator for Garp’s editor, returns fromntwo days of reading The World Accordingnto Bensenhaver.n” ‘Lawd!’ Jillsy crowed. ‘I never had anworse weekend. I got no sleep, I got nonfood. I got no trips to the cemetery tonsee my family and my friends.’ “nnnIrving’s commentary on other aspectsnof the publishing scene, however, putsnhim on poor ground. Like many ofnIrving’s characters Garp’s editor, thencourageous John Wolf, dies prematurelynand is frequently quoted in the press. Itnis actually in a news magazine articlenthat Garp first encounters him:n”… A courageous New York editornat a well-known publishing house hadnjust rejected the manuscript submittednby an infamous former member of thengovernment who had been convictednof stealing government money. Thenbook was thinly disguised ‘fiction’ ofnthe criminal’s own sordid, petty, politicalndealings. ‘It was a lousy novel,’ theneditor was quoted as saying. ‘The manncan’t write. Why should he make anynmoney off his crummy life.”’ The book,nof course, would be published elsewhere,nand it would eventually makenits despicable author and its publishernlots of money. ‘Sometimes I feel it isnmy responsibility to say no,’ the editornwas quoted as saying, ‘even if I knownpeople do want to read this slop.’ Thenslop, eventually, would be treated tonseveral serious reviews, just as if it werena serious book . . .”nLater, years after this breathtakinglynprincipled stand, John Wolf exercises thenfinal “stroke of genius” which is . . . “tonlaunch The World According to Bensenhaverninto that uncanny half-light wherenoccasional ‘serious’ books glow, for a time,nas also ‘popular’ books. John Wolf was ansmart and cynical man. He knew aboutnall the shitty autobiographical associationsnthat make those rapid readers ofngossip warm to an occasional fiction.”nThere are evidently some autobiographicalnallusions of Irving’s own here. He isnnot the kind of author to be cowed fromnconfessing in one part of his book whatnhe has with overflowing self-righteousnessncondemned a few pages before. ThenWorld According to Garp is so wellstockednwith assassinations, egomanianand melodrama—as fully as any productionnby Ehrlichman or Lindsay—that hen