In One Person: A novel

by John Irving

Hardcover, 2012

Status

Available

Publication

New York : Simon & Schuster, 2012.

Description

The author's most political novel since The Cider House Rules and A Prayer for Owen Meany, this novel is an intimate and unforgettable portrait of the solitariness of a bisexual man who is dedicated to making himself "worthwhile."

Media reviews

Den amerikanske forfatteren John Irving har latt seg inspirere av Henrik Ibsen i sin nyeste roman. Ibsen-diskusjonene er det beste ved boken, som ellers inneholder forutsigbare Irving-temaer som bryting, en forsvunnet far, uklare identiteter og ikke minst sex i de fleste konstellasjoner
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Jeg må tilstå med det samme: Jeg er blodfan av John Irving. Han forteller historier uten like, og i I en og samme person er han umiskjennelig irvingsk – tematikken er ikke ukjent for Irving-lesere, og hovedpersonen har som ofte før flere likhetstrekk med forfatteren. Denne romanen er både deilig, smertefull og underholdende å oppholde seg i. Typisk nok varer oppholdet i hundrevis av sider, litt over fem hundre
Irving likes to track his characters over long stretches of time. “In One Person” begins in the mid-1950s, when Billy is 13, and shadows him until he is in his late 60s, in 2010. As a work of fiction, it is true to the way we recall our lives rather than the way we actually live them; we live in linear time — we have no choice — but the curve of our memory is never a straight line. Happenings that lasted an hour can obsess us for years. Years of our lives can be forgotten.

User reviews

LibraryThing member richardderus
Rating: 3.75* of five

The Book Report: The book description says:
A compelling novel of desire, secrecy, and sexual identity, In One Person is a story of unfulfilled love—tormented, funny, and affecting—and an impassioned embrace of our sexual differences. Billy, the bisexual narrator and main character of In One Person, tells the tragicomic story (lasting more than half a century) of his life as a “sexual suspect,” a phrase first used by John Irving in 1978 in his landmark novel of “terminal cases,” The World According to Garp. His most political novel since The Cider House Rules and A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving’s In One Person is a poignant tribute to Billy’s friends and lovers—a theatrical cast of characters who defy category and convention. Not least, In One Person is an intimate and unforgettable portrait of the solitariness of a bisexual man who is dedicated to making himself “worthwhile.”

My Review: I'll start with the personal part: I don't “get” bisexuals. We're all bisexual, on a sliding scale developed by good ol' Doctor Kinsey. Sex feels good (if you're doing it right) and the plumbing isn't all that important. Or wouldn't be if the Longface Puritans League would quit getting all pantiwadulous over the subject.

So what, is then my response to the avowed bisexual. Big deal, says I. If I think the aforementioned bisexual is desirable, I will then proceed to ask him for a date. And he will say yes or no. And the world will continue to spin. But not one single thing will happen because he's bisexual.

All very simple, right? Oh so wrong. To know you're attracted to men is a defining thing for a man. Knowing that Davy Jones of the Monkees was the face I wanted to see when I woke up clarified things for me. I was, admittedly, seven at the time, and the clarity was limited to knowing that was what I wanted with no concept whatsoever of the other possibilities and requirements. But clear I was, and clear I've stayed: Men, please.

My wives knew they were marrying a gay man, and we had sex in our marriage beds. Remember the whole “sex feels good” passage above? It does! I promise! As much fun as it was, I would never have been faithful to those women, and would never have lied about it, and was clear from the get-go what my deal was...because I had An Identity. Other people didn't and don't like my identity (fuck 'em) but I had one. And bisexuals, in our binary public culture of Men Want Women and Women Want Men (unless their husbands want a three-way with another girl), don't rebel enough for the rebels or conform enough for the conformists.

That has got to suck wookie balls. Here your nature is absolutely in line with what evolution produced, you are the exemplar of the normal and ordinary human sexual response, and no one wants your ass in their camp! John Irving's novel deals with sexual awakening, romantic flowering, and relationship hell...TWICE! Billy, our narrator, knows something's wonky when he gets major wood for the town librarian AND his new stepfather. He careens through a hormonally hyperdriven adolescence, a love affair with a gay guy (such a bad bad bad idea) and on and on and on through fifty years of life as a hidden, unloved, unvalued majority member. I loved Irving's honesty about the deeply personal pain and scars he took, and dealt, through Billy's voice. I loved the honest self-appraisals scattered throughout the book, Irving stating clearly that he was a snob, that he had mixed feelings about AIDS (fear, pity, disgust) and its victims.

Because this is very much a roman à clef. It comes late in his career, but it is what it is. I love that he's written it. I love that he tells a man's story of not fitting his skin still less fitting in.

I don't love the writing. It's not memorable in any way. I can't think of one single line to quote, I can't remember where the lines I thought might do are located, and in a few days I won't remember much about this book except it's an amazement to me that I was so completely self-absorbed that I ever thought bisexuals were just tiresomely difficult to bed.

Irving changed my world-view a little bit. I hope for the better, and I expect for the long haul. I'm a lot more likely not to roll my eyes when some guy I'm hitting on tells me he's bisexual (in my age cohort, a surprisingly large number of men are “coming out” as bi). So three-plus stars. If this had been a story about heterosexuals, it would be one and only one star.

Because I need these eyeblinks to count. Time's not slowing down no matter how many kittens I sacrifice to the gods.
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LibraryThing member Schatje
The narrator is Bill Abbott, a bisexual novelist. In retrospect he describes his life from adolescence to old age. Half the book focuses on his teenage years at a private boys’ school in Vermont where he has his first "crushes on the wrong people," including his stepfather, the local librarian, the mother of his best friend, and Jacques Kittredge, the school's star wrestler and bully. The rest of the novel outlines his later years and those of his family members, friends, and lovers.

Bill is described as the writer of "sexually explicit novels - those pleas for tolerance of sexual differences" (314). This is a perfect description of Irving's novel. To emphasize his theme, Irving has his narrator repeat the words of his one true love: "'please don't put a label on me - don't make me a category before you get to know me'" (425). He also has Bill quote Shylock's speech in which "Jew" could be replaced by "bisexual": "Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? . . . If you prick us, do we not bleed? . . . If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die" (310 - 311)? There is no doubt that Irving is well-meaning and feels passionately about the need for tolerance and acceptance; the problem is that sometimes he comes across more as a didactic essayist than a novelist.

Shakespearean allusions are not the only ones to be found; there are references to several of Ibsen's plays and Dickens' novels, Flaubert's "Madame Bovary," and James Baldwin's "Giovanni's Room." Besides literary allusions, the novel has many other of the typical Irving elements: wrestling, bears, a missing father, a prep school setting, gender-bending, a trip to Vienna.

There are a few problems with characterization. For example, Bill is not very astute, a trait that would hinder a writer who should have keen observational skills. Several times the reader will reach conclusions about a character's sexual identity long before Bill does. Too many of the female characters seem sexually repressed or damaged. Also, the number of people with sexual identity issues that Billy encounters in his youth seems large. Bill has a transvestite, a lesbian and a gay family member. Furthermore, half the people in his prep school turn out to be gay, transvestites or transgendered, especially those who were wrestlers in their adolescent years.

There are many touches of humour, especially in the performances of the First Sister Players, the amateur theatrical group in Bill's hometown. There are also scenes of unrelenting horror, particularly in the section detailing the devastating effects of the AIDS epidemic. The statistics are harrowing - "By '95 - in New York, alone - more Americans had died of AIDS than were killed in Vietnam"(321) - as are the descriptions of the deaths of friends and lovers Bill witnesses.

This novel is a clarion call for tolerance for people of all sexual persuasions. I doubt it will rank as one of Irving's great novels, but it is nonetheless an entertaining read.
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LibraryThing member steadfastreader
I read somewhere that this was Irving's most political book since 'Cider House Rules'. It probably is. A few things though. There seems to be an inordinately large LGBT(Q) population in the tiny town of Favorite River. ...not that there's anything wrong with that, but it felt a bit contrived.

Second. I feel like both of these themes have been better executed in 'A Prayer for Owen Meany' (friendship, the idea of being a 'Joseph' [in this case bi-], even the FAMILY is the same, but with less love) and 'A Widow for One Year', which tackles a man's lifelong obsession and longing for an older woman that shapes his life.

That being said I think that this is a fabulous novel for the subject matter that it tackles. It's warm and funny, the characters are largely likable. The best part of this novel is the way that it takes on the 1980's AIDS epidemic and completely humanizes it. Like the AIDS Quilt in DC, it's a great reminder that those who suffered (and are suffering) are NOT just statistics.

Definitely worth the read, even if it's not his best.
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LibraryThing member Cathyvil
Started out a bit slow for me but eventually drew me in to the point where I had to find out what happened next. Three more cheers for Irving on this one.
LibraryThing member presto
Now in his sixties, William (Billy) looks back over his life, his schooling, his friendships, and the many losses over the years. As a child with an absent father and an increasingly distant mother all might have gone badly for the young billy were it not for his grandparents, his easy going uncle and the arrival of the charismatic young man who was soon to be his stepfather. In fact it was his newly acquired stepfather, the handsome new English teacher at the Academy who helped set Billy on the course that was to become his life, kindling his interest in books and at the same time introducing him the the local librarian Miss Frost with whom the very young Billy instantly falls (and secretly) in love. But when Billy starts at the Academy he is also infatuated with one his fellow students, the good looking high flyer on the wrestling team, the over confident Jacques Kittredge. Billy learns early that he is bi-sexual, and has no problem with it.

Billy takes us through his life and his love affairs with both men and women. Come the eighties the tragedy of AIDS takes its toll among many of his friends, and some of the writing here is especially touching and moving.

Over the course of the novel there are a number of constant friends, and of course family, but we also learn of the outcome for many of those who we might have thought were forgotten over the course of time.

In One Person is a wonderful read, with interesting and complex characters, we often do not know how complex until each is gradually revealed over the course of the novel. Billy himself changes over the course of time, always an endearing character he becomes more so as he becomes more empathetic as he ages.

Beautifully written, one very soon feels confident in John Irving's hands that English will be treated with respect. It is a fascinating story with many surprises or revelations along the way; it is a novel the encourages understanding, tolerance and compassion; and it is quite simply a great read.
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LibraryThing member ImperfectCJ
Throughout college and for about a half-decade after, John Irving was my favorite author. I loved the way he took similar elements (wrestling, squash, New England, boarding schools, abortion, sexual diversity, shrill and prudish women) and reshuffled them into something full of new meaning. I loved A Prayer for Owen Meany and A Widow for One Year, and I enjoyed, to one degree or another, everything else of his I read (with the possible exception of The Water-Method Man, but we're all entitled to some misses).

Overall, In One Person does just what my favorite Irving novels do with the reshuffled elements and the new meaning. In addition, Irving tackles without flinching issues of sexuality and gender fluidity that have seemingly got our whole country shifting in their seats a little (or a lot) right now. And I really appreciate the look at what the AIDS epidemic was like in the 1980's. I was in elementary school when Ryan White was kicked out of school for being HIV positive and in college when the first anti-retrovirals were approved, but while AIDS was present and in the news for much of my youth, I had little to no experience with people living with the disease until I was an adult and public sentiment---and available treatments---had changed dramatically. This novel wasn't the first time I'd heard about what it was like on the inside of this epidemic, but it was a poignant telling. As usual, Irving doesn't pull any punches.

All of this I love, but I didn't quite love this novel as a whole. It took about 180 pages for the story to start moving, and when it did I thought, "There! There's the Irving that I know!" but even after that, it never quite reached the level of my favorite Irving novels.

The main problem I have is with the narrator. I don't dislike Bill/Billy/William as a person---he's actually a quite sympathetic character---but he is a clumsy narrator. Either Irving, for artistic reasons, is letting Bill do the narrating knowing he'll overuse italics and exclamation points and repeat words and phrases beyond the tolerance of the reader, or this is actually Irving's narrating voice and he's lost his edge or is just phoning it in these days. In a way, it doesn't really matter because I found the narration tedious regardless.

Beyond the head-on way Irving addresses gender identity, sexuality, and HIV/AIDS, I also appreciate the way he portrays the differences between generations. We see the progression in tolerance from the pre-World War II generation through to the Millennials, although I do sense a little Baby Boomer reticence about GenX. While Baby Boomers and Millennials get starring roles in Irving's world, GenX features hardly at all (by my count, just two characters who reach adulthood) and always as the pragmatists stuck in between a generation of navel-gazers and a generation of phone-gazers. That's not really Irving's fault, though; by underappreciating (or perhaps just misunderstanding) GenX, he's just reflecting reality. (Boo-hoo, I know.)

At any rate, aside from the sidelining of my generation, I like the way that Irving shows how tolerance grows gradually and in a nonlinear fashion as the paradigms of each generation shift. What was once unthinkable becomes not only possible but almost normal two generations down the line. Or in the case of Shakespeare and casting men in women's roles and vice versa, it goes more "acceptable, unacceptable, unacceptable but necessary, acceptable but edgy, acceptable." Or something like that. Nonlinear.

I also enjoy how disappointingly human Irving's characters are. With the possible exception of Miss Frost, there are no perfect characters. Everyone's just muddling along the way we all do. It's not always satisfying, but I wouldn't trust a novel in which it was any other way.… (more)
LibraryThing member nivramkoorb
Although many critics did not like Irving's previous 2 novels, I did. So when I read reviews that led me to believe that this book was superior to those, I was looking forward to this book. I was disappointed. Being the 10th novel I had read by Irving, I knew that I would enjoy it because it was Irving. Unfortunately, his use of quirky characters felt worn in this novel. The constant impact of minor characters on a person 50 years after they were in his life just gets old after a while. I just didn't get the sense of freshness in this novel. The description of the particulars of the aids epidemic seemed dated when written this long after the peak of the epidemic. I just never got a feel for what Bill(the main character) really felt. This is sometimes a problem in first person narratives. If you have read Irving before than you may like this, but if not then there are other books that he has written that are superior to this one.… (more)
LibraryThing member petterw
I am a huge and loyal fan of John Irving. However, this time I was a bit disappointed. I found In one Person one of his weakest and most detatched novels to date. Perhaps the subject matter is more shocking and groundbreaking to an American reader, but I just couldn't be moved by most of the characters, their stories and their challenges. There is little at stake for the main character, he passes through life being different and meeting some obstacles, but nothing much really happens. I get a feeling that Irving wanted to make a statement (important and timely enough) about gay living and how important it is that we accept variety- more than he wanted to write a novel about characters. In his 13th book I am also getting a bit tired of some of the recurring themes from his previous books: wrestling, New Hampshire, Vienna, main character a writer, etc. Still, no Irving book is worth ignoring, but if you really want to read some of his gems, start with his earlier books and work your way through at least 10 brilliant novels.… (more)
LibraryThing member ashergabbay
After finishing John Irving’s latest book, "In One Peron", I was filled with great sadness. The sadness of saying goodbye. Typically, after finishing an Irving book the "goodbye" means having to live behind all the wonderful characters and the gripping story that accompanied me throughout the book. This time the "goodbye" has an entirely different meaning.

Irving is one of my favourite authors. Some of his books (most notably, "A Prayer for Owen Meany") are the best novels I’ve ever read. However, his most recent books – "Until I Find You" (2005), "Last Night in Twisted River" (2009) and now "In One Person" (2012) – are a disappointment. Painful as it is to admit this to myself, Irving has lost his magical touch.

"In One Person" is the life story of Billy Dean, from his teenage years in the 1950s until he’s about 60. Billy grows up in the New England town of First Sister, Vermont, living on the campus of an all-boys boarding school. He never met his father, and his conservative, stern mother will not divulge any details about the man she fell in love with all those years ago. Other dominating characters in young Billy’s life are his grandfather (an amateur actor who prefers acting female roles), his stepfather Richard, and the local libraraian with the big hands, Miss Frost. It is his infatuation with Miss Frost that helps Billy discover his bisexuality. Billy is attracted not only to Miss Frost but also to Kitteredge, the leading member of the school’s wrestling team. Unlike the librarian, this attraction remains one-sided.

Aside from bears, almost all of Irving’s usual themes are present in "In One Person": New England, boarding schools, wrestling and coaching, intra-family intimate ties, single motherhood, marital infidelities, Vienna, etc. (Perhaps the homosexuality theme of this novel supplies the "bears" theme from another angle…) But despite the familiar settings of Irving’s beloved novels, "In One Person" fails to rise to the test. The story is dull and the characters, despite their colourfulness, are too predictable. The frequent use of parentheses, an Irving technique to communicate directly with the reader, becomes very tiresome after the first few chapters. And even though by now we are all used to Irving’s explicit language, some parts of this book descend to new depths of profanity. A couple of times I imagined Irving as the kindergarten boy who says "bad words" because he enjoys watching the shocked expressions of the adults.

A couple of weeks ago, writer Philip Roth announced his retirement from writing. For the sake of preserving my fond memories of his novels it is with great sadness that I recommend for Irving to follow in Roth’s footsteps.
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LibraryThing member tvordj
This is a really wonderful book! It's a coming of age story in the first half about a teenage boy, Billy, who realizes early on that he's bisexual. He gets "inappropriate" crushes on other boys, men and older women. It takes place in the late 50s and early 60s when he's young and then takes us through the rest of his life in less detail as he grows up and older.

The story is filled with quirky characters, which Irving is well known for in his more famous books like World According to Garp etc. There's interesting characters like a cross dressing grandfather, a near-alcoholic uncle, an aunt and grandmother who are domineering women, a handsome bully schoolmate that both Billy and his best friend Elaine have a crush on and a transexual librarian, also someone Billy is infatuated with.

The story is told by Billy who is looking back over his life and it jumps around a little bit, as if someone was telling you the story and is reminded of incidents, tells you, then gets back to where he was. It's not hard to follow.

It does get a bit grim and sad when describing the Aids epidemic in the 80s as Billy looses a lot of friends, old and new.

I think the book is very good at portraying an out of the ordinary life and how it affects him and his relationships, and how he and his life are affected by those around him, by his background and family and experiences as a boy.
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LibraryThing member Hagelstein
I was surprised at how good this book was because I’d heard some negatives. I think the content might bother some people, because you can’t fault the writing. It is John Irving after all.

The story follows William Abbott from adolescence – when he discovers his bisexuality – to old age. At the end many of his contemporaries have died – many to AIDS. Most of his family is gone. But he has lived a compelling life as a writer and friend and lover to many. Some he keeps for life and the story follows his relationships.

The familiar Irving settings are here: an all-boy private school, wrestling and wrestlers, Vienna, cross-dressing. The story could have ended much earlier than it does, but is no less interesting for the length. The emphasis on sexuality probably isn’t for everyone, but this is a very good book.
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LibraryThing member Doondeck
Irving's writing is, as always, superb. I don't think he portrayed Bill's self-awakening as thoroughly as he could. The part of the story dealing with AIDS was riveting, troubling and tender.
LibraryThing member mckall08
I started "In One Person" looking forward to a sensitive, if humorous, treatment of LBGT issues in the life of protaganist Billy. His life is detailed from small town prep school into old age. I expected that Billy -self-identified as bisexual- would explore the range of sexual partners. The setting is an all male private New England school. Its drama productions give outlet to men or boys playing women and women playing boys. Wrestling also familiar territory for Irving weaves into the plot. I didn't expect that most everyone in his family is involved in some sort of sexual deviance along with various townies and school people. Is there something in the town water? Who needs the Haight or the East Village? And the town librarian? Well, I don't want to spoil it.

What's more disappointing is most of those that stray from the sexual norm are portrayed as zanies. It's hard to take them seriously or care about the tragedies that ensue. Semi closeted part time tranvestite relatives are treated as comic stereotypes. They commit suicide and it's hard to care.

There's a lot of sex going on of the mostly non-standard variety. The emphasis on extraneous oddities disserves the case for acceptance of diverse sexual identities. [to be continued]
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LibraryThing member SigmundFraud
Contrived ending but well written with an interesting plot.
LibraryThing member brianinbuffalo
It's always a risky proposition when I pick up the latest novel of an author who has written one of my favorite books in the past couple decades. The bar is set high. Usually too high. This dynamic was at play with Irving's latest work. I was awestruck by "A Prayer for Owen Meany." "In One Person: A Novel" was a well-written saga that employed a good number of intriguing characters and explored some weighty issues. But I have to be candid. Midway through the saga that spans several decades, it became a bit tedious and even overly-preachy. In my estimation, he overused some devices, including his repeated references to Shakesperian drama. Still, Irving knows how to develop a story, layer-by-layer, then recount the tale in beautiful prose. It's a book worth reading.… (more)
LibraryThing member maneekuhi
Another excellent novel by John Irving. Sometimes funny, witty, insightful, other times sad, disturbing, even gruesome.....it tells the story of Billy from his birth in 1942 until recent times. We meet all the interesting people that he encounters, that shape his life from his Grandpa Harry who plays only female roles in local Vermont theater productions to Miss Frost who is the town librarian and one of Billy's first loves. Much of the first half deals with Billy surviving his family in every meaning of the word while trying to understand and deal with his sexual nature. He is a self-described bisexual but he doesn't want others putting labels on him, nor judging him, until they know him. Over the years we meet many of Billy's partners and get to know them for better or worse.He becomes a writer, a rather successful one, strongly influenced by all those relationships especially from his private school years. There is a big mood shift at the two-thirds point of the story when Billy begins to learn of the passing of several of his classmates, victims of the Viet Nam war. A bit later, other friends are among the early victims AIDS. Billy visits a classmate with whom he toured Europe just before entering college, and he describes in great detail all of the man's medical problems and symptoms. But Billy survives all this and in the final excellent chapters he comes to closure with critical characters who had been missing from most of his life. Throughout the book Billy cries for tolerance and understanding, and he touches on all of the issues that he and his GLBTQ friends live with and deal with. While I am not a total convert, I recognize an excellent story well told and I recommend it. Five stars.… (more)
LibraryThing member kenrg
In One Person was a fully satisfying read that would have earned a 5-star review had it been by another author for whom I did not have such high expectations.

From the first paragraph - concluding with the line, "We are formed by what we desire. In less than a minute of excited, secretive longing, I desired to become a writer and to have sex with miss Frost--not necessarily in that order." - I was pulled into this novel and the life of William Abbott and his extended family.

But as much as the novel pulled me in, it built at a slower pace than I would have expected. The narrator continues to linger in Bill's teenage years at the Favorite River Academy long after I was ready to move on. These years are important to the story - and great reading - but much of what's to come is alluded to here, but is never as fully described as these early scenes.

I still wanted to read more about the summer in Europe with poor Tom, and how that relationship ended. There's virtually nothing about William's early college years, before returning to Europe to study in Vienna. Another gap appears following the return from Vienna.

Still, even with the long, perhaps uneven, build-up, by the time we get to 1981 and the start of the AIDS epidemic, Irving has us where he wants us. The reunions with poor Tom and "two cups" Delacorte are presented tenderly and to great effect.

As Richard Abbott tells our narrator (page 311), "If you live long enough, Bill--it's a world of epilogues." It's a John Irving novel, so the epilogues include the deaths of many of the characters: by AIDS, but also suicides, a car wreck with a drunk driver, and even natural causes.

There are reunions and survivors in these epilogues as well, including the elusive Franny Dean, and despite the dark topics of AIDS and fear inspired hatred, there's a chance for a hopeful ending; even in young Kitteridge's anger there's a desire to understand.

Understanding and tolerance is what John Irving always asks of us through all his novels - to have some sympathy for those who live society's taboos. "We already are who we are, aren't we?"

In the end, while this was a very good book, and I do recommend it to those who either love John Irving or are interested in the story, it falls somewhat short of such classics as The Cider House Rules, A Prayer for Owen Meany, or even the more recent Last Night in Twisted River.
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LibraryThing member AramisSciant
This is a fantastic book and was a delight to read from beginning to end, even when it went into stories of very difficult times I still remember too well. Funny and sensitive and courageous and just so masterfully written. It constantly made me want to know these characters, to have chats with them, to listen to more and more of their stories.
While I think this may well be Irving at its most courageous and unapologetic, I can see how this would not be a good entry point to his work for people who haven't read him (or for any person without an open mind and open heart). However, for readers with even a little tolerance or human empathy, this will be an illuminating, masterful and wonderful tour into a world not many have ventured into. I totally loved it.
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LibraryThing member shazjhb
A little long, a little predictable. The story was less complete. I think Mrs. Kitteridge was actually Mr. Kitteridge as a transgender. Good read. Not his best but not his worst.
LibraryThing member St.CroixSue
Irving’s new book is reminiscent of his earlier works (The World According To Garp, Hotel New Hampshire) and for fans of Irving this is a good thing. It is about an elderly bisexual looking back on his life, and provides insight into the coming of age of the gender ‘questioning’ kids in a small private boy’s school. Full of quirky characters ala John Irving. I especially appreciated the section on the early days of the AIDS epidemic and the horrific and tragic impact on the gay and bi community. Well read by the narrator.… (more)
LibraryThing member BALE
Some reviewers have complained that John Irving’s, In One Person, is too contrived, that there are too many gay, lesbian and bisexual people in his small town and private local school, and life itself, to render true. Yet when you count up the actual people in his small town and school who are “afflicted”, it only amounts to a handful of people and/or families. The school, being private, allows students from all over the US and world. Therefore, small town, or not, the school will have a diverse cast of characters. Additionally, people tend to surround themselves with like-minded people. For the protagonist, being bisexual, it is natural it will include those from both sexes. Since he is a bisexual, it is also natural that people are going to refer young adults to him to help them deal with and understand their conflicting feelings. Lastly, a writer will use poetic extremes to illustrate a point. I do not think this novel is a masterpiece, but it is well conceived and written. I enjoyed the novel and was sorry to see it end. The characters were interesting and diverse, the plot was well developed, the writing was exquisite and the ending was tooled by an author who has lived and gained wisdom over his lifetime, which was reflected in this novel. Thus, I gave it a rating of 4 stars; but, if an option, I would have given it 4.25. This is a novel worth reading. It will leave one thinking, often, about those who are “different” then the norm and the injustices they suffer. It will also leave you satisfied, having read a finely written novel.… (more)
LibraryThing member KatieANYC
All of the classic Irving moves are satisfying: quirky family and townsfolk, beloved wrestling coach, dark but also nostalgia-filled prep school setting, just-short-of-traumatic sexual initiation, frequent interruptions in the characters' lives by the march of American history/culture, etc. But this is SUCH a project novel, and as a result, it begins to feel like Irving is only introducing new characters in order to have them break the sexual mold in some perfunctory way. Oh how I wish he would stick to childhood stories, where he remains unsurpassed.… (more)
LibraryThing member writestuff
My thoughts:

The book jacket describes John Irving’s newest novel this way:

A compelling novel of desire, secrecy, and sexual identity, In One Person is a story of unfulfilled love – tormented, funny, and affecting – and an impassioned embrace of our sexual differences.

The main character is Billy and his story begins as a young boy and spans more than 50 years in the book. As with all Irving novels, this one begins with an introduction to multiple quirky characters who are struggling with their identity. Irving’s narrative shifts back and forth in time in a nonlinear fashion, but remains seated in Billy’s limited first person point of view.

I wanted to love this novel because I am a huge John Irving fan. I have been reading Irving’s novels for years and have loved almost every book he has written, including Cider House Rules, The World According to Garp, Hotel New Hampshire, A Prayer for Owen Meany, and Last Night in Twisted River. Reading Irving novels always takes a bit of patience due to his signature meandering style – but, patience is usually rewarded with rich characters, surprise plot twists, humor, and a clarity of insight into the human condition.

I started reading In One Person on March 5th, and only managed to get through 140 pages ten days later. I am having a hard time putting my finger on what did not work for me. I found my mind wandering. I felt disconnected to Billy, whose voice began to grow tedious to me. I kept coming back to the book because I wanted to love it; I wanted to find the magic which I often find in John Irving novels. But it was not happening…and so I did something I rarely ever do: I closed the book and decided not to finish it.

Because I did not finish the book, I am not rating it.… (more)
LibraryThing member JenneB
OK I GIVE UP
LibraryThing member susan.h.schofield
I would give this book 2 stars for the actual story but 5 stars for the writing - I love the way John Irving writes I just didn't enjoy this book.

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