Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Armchair Novel Review - In One Person by John Irving

In One Person
by John Irving

Hardcover, 448 pages
Also available as an eBook

It is no secret that John Irving is my favourite author. His books are so amazingly complex, deep, intricate, moving and delightfully ridiculous at the same time - he is a true storyteller and one of the most important contemporary authors in North America.

In One Person is narrated by the main character, William (Billy) Abbott, and it is very much a coming of age (and beyond) book - both for William himself and the world. Billy's story begins in a private school in Vermont, where his first sexual stirrings have him deeply questioning himself. He begins a quest to learn more about "crushes on the wrong people" and his own sexuality. Over the course of several decades, the Vietnam war and the AIDs epidemic, changing attitudes and even changing language about sex and sexuality, we learn about William's life and experiences and how they shaped the man he has become.

The novel is written in the style of a grown William (Bill) telling you his life story. It is poignant and graphic and you never want it to end.

In One Person is John Irving's 13th novel. I admit I have read all of his novels but some of them have been long enough ago that I plan on revisiting the early ones. Click here if you would like to join the Random Reader Challenge and catch up on some of your past favourite John Irving novels!

Excerpted from the John Irving Q&A:

The protagonist and first person narrator of In One Person, Billy Abbott, is bisexual. Why do you think bisexuals are rarely represented in literature? 

The bisexual men I have known were not shy, nor were they “conflicted.”  (This is also true of the bisexual men I know now.)   I would say, too, that both my oldest and youngest bisexual male friends are among the most confident men I have ever known.  Yet bisexual men—of my generation, especially—were generally distrusted.  Their gay male friends thought of them as gay guys who were hedging their bets, or holding back—or keeping a part of themselves in the closet.  To most straight men, the only part of a bisexual man that registers is the gay part; to many straight women, a bi guy is doubly untrustworthy—he could leave you for another woman or for a guy!  The bisexual occupies what Edmund White calls “the interstitial—whatever lies between two familiar opposites.”  I can’t speculate on why other writers may choose to eschew the bisexual as a potential main character—especially as a point-of-view character (Billy Abbott is an outspoken first-person narrator).  I just know that sexual misfits have always appealed to me; writers are outsiders—at least we’re supposed to be “detached.”  Well, I find sexual outsiders especially engaging.  There is the gay brother in The Hotel New Hampshire; there are the gay twins (separated at birth) in A Son of the Circus; there are transsexual characters in The World According to Garp and in A Son of the Circus, and now again (this time, much more developed as characters) in In One Person.  I like these people; they attract me, and I fear for their safety—I worry about who might hate them and wish them harm.

Read the rest of the Q&A here.