Read Minä olen monta by John Irving Kristiina Rikman Online


1950-luvun Uudessa-Englannissa asuva Billy Abbott on teatteriperheen vesa. 13-vuotiaan Billyn äiti on First Sisterin pikkukaupungissa toimivan harrastelijateatterin kuiskaaja, komea isäpuoli armoitettu ensirakastaja. Naisroolit jaetaan tädin ja isoisän kesken, joskin kaitaluinen isoisä on leningissä uskottavampi kuin siveä Muriel-täti. Katsomossa istuva isoäiti ei tiedä, k1950-luvun Uudessa-Englannissa asuva Billy Abbott on teatteriperheen vesa. 13-vuotiaan Billyn äiti on First Sisterin pikkukaupungissa toimivan harrastelijateatterin kuiskaaja, komea isäpuoli armoitettu ensirakastaja. Naisroolit jaetaan tädin ja isoisän kesken, joskin kaitaluinen isoisä on leningissä uskottavampi kuin siveä Muriel-täti. Katsomossa istuva isoäiti ei tiedä, kumpaa paheksuisi enemmän, puolihameissa turhankin hyvin viihtyvää miestään vai Billyn kadonnutta isää. Ei siis ihme, että Billy päätyy salaamaan orastavat seksuaaliset epäilyksensä.Mutta ihastumista vääriin ihmisiin ei voi välttää. Painijoukkueen kauniskasvoinen kapteeni Jacques Kittredge ja epäilyttävän leveäharteinen kirjastonhoitaja neiti Frost ovat vain alkusoittoa Billyn alati mutkikkaammassa rakkauselämässä. Biseksuaali Billy saa pian huomata, että ahdasmielisyys ei rajoitu pikkukaupunkeihin. Mutta Billy ei anna periksi. Ura menestyskirjailijana rakentuu vankalle uskolle, että seksuaalinen suuntautuminen ei ole ihmisyyden mitta.John Irvingin uskaliain ja kunnianhimoisin romaani on puhdasverinen tragikomedia, joka palaa rakastetun Garpin maailman teemoihin – vuosikymmeniä viisaampana. Tuiman katseen tuttu pilke saa aavistelemaan, että tie helvettiin on mitä luultavimmin moraalisella ylenkatseella kivetty....

Title : Minä olen monta
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9789513170929
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 615 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Minä olen monta Reviews

  • Will Byrnes
    2019-03-02 06:44

    There is a scene near the end of John Irving’s latest novel, In One Person,in which a character who is a writer is confronted:…I’ve read all your books and I know what you do—I mean, in your writing. You make all these sexual extremes seem normal—that is what you do. Like Gee, that girl, or whatever she is—or what she’s becoming. You create these characters who are so sexually ‘different,’ as you might call them—or ‘fucked up,’ which is what I would call them—and then you expect us to sympathize with them, or feel sorry for them, or something. “Yes, that is more or less what I do,” I told him. (p 424)And that is exactly what Irving does here. Irving maintains his fixation on sexuality in this one, and wrestling and New England prep schools, and May-December romance. So, if he is jogging for the umpteenth time down the same well-worn path, what is it that makes this one any different? The story is not one of a May-December entanglement, although that element is here. The book is about sexuality in a larger social, historical context. William Abbot, in his late sixties, recalls his life, from his prep school days in the small town of First Sister, Vermont to his present, in the 21st century. Billy is bisexual and knows from an early age that he is attracted to both males and females. He struggles to find his place in the world, knowing that he differs from the usual in a significant way. Irving shows us his journey, his loves, triumphs, disappointments, what he discovers, what he seeks out, the discovery of self and of the world that is the core of any life journey worth telling. In the same way that Cabot Cove of Murder, She Wrote fame zoomed way above the statistical norm as a rather dodgy place in which to hold onto one's corporal existence, Little Sister, Vermont seems a statistically anomalous bastion of sexual diversity. William has a grandfather who cross dresses, genetic contributions from a gay relation, a cousin who is a lesbian, a best friend who is also bi, a classmate who walks on both sides of the street, another classmate who is gay, and a notable person in town who is transgender. Relying on that unimpeachable source, Wikipedia, we learn that as of April 2011, approximately 3.5% of American adults identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual, while 0.3% are transgender. Of course, the number who are in fact LGB or T is probably higher, as there remain plenty of closets filled with members of those groups not yet able to identify themselves as such. Even so, and considering that the period in question is mostly early 1960s, you might want to check under First Sister's slip to see if maybe she might really be First Brother. Maybe there’s something in the water there, washing down from grandpa’s lumber mill. (This must summon to mind Monty Python’s amazingly relevant Lumberjack Song- In fact, there is so much non-standard sexuality in First Sister, Vt, that one might expect the sport Irving focuses on to shift from his favorite, wrestling, to something like Cross-Country, or Mixed doubles.William’s tale is primarily that of his mid-to-late adolescence, his emergence as a bisexual, and coping with the complications and personal growth that result. In particular he copes with the ongoing problem of having crushes on the “wrong people.” I felt that this was the strongest part of the book. Enough time is dedicated to these early years to give us the richest texture, the deepest appreciation. This is not to say that William’s years beyond are thin, well, ok maybe a bit thin as he squeezes too many years into too few pages, but if his story were a Hershey kiss, the prep school years would be the lower two thirds. For all that this is about William’s coming of age, he seemed pretty well formed by the time he appears as a young adolescent. He knew what he was, bisexual, and did not seem to suffer much real conflict about it. One might expect that he would feel two ways about it, but he didn’t, even though he grows into a more robust acceptance as he grows.One mechanism Irving used to bolster his characterizations was to give William a speech problem that was probably tongue in cheek. William had great difficulty pronouncing words that related to problem areas in his life. “Penis,” for example, comes out “penith,” with the plural presenting an acute challenge. Later, another character is shown to have the same malady. This felt forced to me, a bit too cute. Literature and theater permeate the story. The young William is led to the reading life by the town librarian, the alluring Miss Frost, and this opens the door for Irving to connect his characters to tales from great literature. There are two stage venues in First Sister, the school and the town both put on productions. This offers many opportunities for Irving to tell us about his characters by the roles they are assigned in the many plays, usually Shakespeare or Ibsen. Sadly, no musicals.One strength, for me, was the presentation of a host of believable supporting characters. A cross-dressing grandparent was a charming, and supportive soul. William’s bff, Elaine, worked well. There are transgender characters portrayed as pillars of strength, very effectively. Also there are heterosexual characters who glow as supportive, caring sorts, William’s stepfather, Elaine’s mother, who offers counseling at the school, and even a gruff-seeming wrestling coach. And a scan of the history of public attitudes about acceptance of orientation diversity adds heft. We see a variety of external pressures put on non-heterosexual people, but William does not really seem all that damaged by the prejudices as a teen, although he is victimized by baseless fears as an adult. Others, however are damaged. A good and supportive person loses a job as a result. Later, the AIDS epidemic takes many. Having to keep secrets does a fair bit of harm as well. There was one particular scene that affected me oddly, made me anxious. I am not sure what to make of it. The scene in which an adult William returns from his home in Manhattan to Vermont for a funeral was particularly discomfiting. I have no particular affection for my “home town” and the thought of being dragged back there, even for a good cause, gives me a fear of being somehow pinned there forever. I feel that I escaped once, and might not if trapped again. Maybe like a djinn consigned again to a lamp from which he had been liberated. I am not sure why I reacted that way to William returning home. Maybe a part of this was the bitter taste of watching the residents of First Sister, Vermont being picked off by the author one by one. It seemed something other than sad. It seemed almost dismissive. As if a list of characters had been posted in the left column, living, and were being systematically dragged into the right hand column, deceased. The passings certainly make sense in the context of the story, but something that I obviously cannot adequately describe bugged me about it. I am not at all citing this as a flaw, just something I wish I could explain, but cannot.I suppose I could go to the well one more time and say that I am ambivalent about In One Person, but I am not. What Irving did for the delicate subject of abortion in Cider House Rules, he does for sexual diversity here, humanizing a difficult subject, making us see the humanity of those too-often considered outsiders. Irving has written a moving story with believable characters, people we can care about and shows without telling.

  • Richard Derus
    2019-03-02 03:54

    Rating: 3.75* of five The Publisher 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.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

  • Jeffrey Keeten
    2019-03-19 01:50

    ”Look, here it is--I just have to say this,” young Kittredge said; he almost couldn’t look at me. “i don’t know you, I admit--I don’t have a clue who my father really was, either, But I’ve read all your books, and I know what you do--I mean, in your writing. You make all these sexual extremes seem normal--that what you do. Like Gee, that girl, or what she is--or what she’s becoming. You create these characters who are so sexually ‘different,’ as you might call them--or ‘fucked up,’ which is what I would call them--and then you expect us to sympathize with them, or feel sorry for them, or something.” “Yes, that’s more or less what I do.” I told him.John Irving doing that thing he do.His story, Billy/Bill/William Abbott, begins when he meets Miss Frost, the librarian of the First Sister Public Library. In her presence he was overcome with a wave of unprecedented desire. ”I’m going to to begin by telling you about Miss Frost. While I say to everyone that I became a writer because I read a certain novel by Charles Dickens at the formative age of fifteen, the truth is I was younger than that when I first met Miss Frost and imagined having sex with her, and this moment of my sexual awakening also marked the fitful birth of my imagination. 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.”Hormones are so lovely in the proper dosages, and so alarming when they gallop. Billy has a problem with inappropriate crushes. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason in who they target or why they must come at him so frequently. He develops one for his step-father Richard Abbott, embarrassing and alarming all wrapped in one explosive heart pounding package. His best friend Elaine’s mother provides a mental image that relieves... pressure... for him frequently. ”I hadn’t been honest with Elaine about my crushes: I’d not yet been brave enough to tell her that both Miss Frost and Jacques Kittredge turned me on. And how could I have told Elaine about my confounding lust for her mom? Occasionally, I was still masturbating to the homely and flat-chested Martha Hadley--that tall, big-boned woman with a wide, thin-lipped mouth, whose long face I imagined on those young girls who were the training bra models in my mom’s mail-order catalogs.”Ahhh remember those days when certain pages of the Sear Roebuck Catalog could provide a bit of stimulation under the covers with a light bulb burning so hot there was fear it would catch the sheets on fire? Mrs. Hadley was also Billy’s therapist. He has an impediment with certain words. In particular with a part of his anatomy that he is most assuredly most obsessed with. It comes out penith.Don’t ask him to say the plural.Miss Frost is his number one obsession, but easily his number two is a wrestler named Kittredge. The same boy that picks on him so mercilessly. The same boy that Elaine is also absolutely crazy about. It doesn’t end there. Kittredge’s mother is just as fascinating to this pair of friends, united in many things, but certainly between the two of them maybe setting an all time record in this small Vermont town for “inappropriate” obsessions. ”Elaine and I couldn’t look at him without seeing his mother, with her legs so perfectly crossed on those uncomfortable bleacher seats at Kittredge’s wrestling match; Mrs. Kittredge had seemed to watch her son’s systematic mauling of his overmatched opponent as if it were a pornographic film, but with the detached confidence of an experienced woman who knew she could do it better. ‘Your mother is a man with breasts,’ I wanted to say to Kittredge, but of course I didn’t dare.”John Wallace Blunt JR (Irving) wrestled at Exeter Academy. It does make me wonder which one of these boys was the one that inspired the character Kittredge. Irving wrestled competitively for more than twenty years and was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma in 1992.Miss Frost continues to feed Billy a bloated diet of literature. ”When I was reading with what Miss Frost described as the ‘reckless desperation of a burglar ravishing a mansion,’ she one day she said to me, ‘Slow down, William, savor, don’t gorge.’” One day she decides he is finally ready to be given the book Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin.Baldwin absolutely kicks his ass. We’ve all had those moments when a book finds its way into our hands at a waterfall juncture when we know from the first pages that life as we know it is never going to be quite the same again. As we feel new bridges and roads being built in our brains in anticipation of the skyscrapers of knowledge that will begin to rise out of the rubble of our youthful beliefs, we tingle and tremble with the excitement of the vast possibilities. As these new vistas open before us we weep for those that don’t read. Writers kick my ass all the time. Because William is a switch hitter, a bisexual, a man attracted to all the variations of human sexuality he finds relationships difficult. ”On this bitter cold night in New York, in February of 1978, when I was almost thirty-six, I had already decided that my bisexuality meant I would be categorized as more unreliable than usual by straight women, while at the same time (and for the same reasons) I would never be entirely trusted by gay men.”Trust is a bedrock part of any relationship and it is hard enough when we deal with it in what is considered “traditional” arrangements. I guess it would only make sense that more pressure would be felt by the other side of the equation if one partner finds a larger percentage of the population potentially attractive. So is Billy actually John Irving? Joy Tipping of the Dallas News had a chance to ask Irving a few questions about his own longings sexually. Irving, 70, says that although “Billy is not me,” he is “my imagination of what I might have been if I’d acted on all my earliest impulses as a young teenager.”The author says he has “always identified with and sympathized with a wide range of sexual desires. When I was a boy, I was confusingly attracted to just about everyone; in lieu of having much in the way of actual sex — this was the ’50s — I imagined having sex all the time, with a disturbing variety of people.“I was attracted to my friends’ mothers, to girls my own age, and — at the all-boys’ school I attended, where I was on the wrestling team — to certain older boys among my teammates. Easily two-thirds of my sexual fantasies frightened me.”He was, he says, terrified of being gay. “It turned out that I liked girls, but the memory of my attractions to the ‘wrong’ people never left me,” he says. “The impulse to bisexuality was very strong; my earliest sexual experiences — more important, my earliest sexual imaginings — taught me that sexual desire is mutable.”With regard to tolerance or lack thereof, Irving notes, “I think our sympathy for others comes, in part, from our ability to remember our feelings. … Certainly, sexual tolerance comes from being honest with ourselves about what we have imagined sexually.”This book has and will make a lot of people uncomfortable. There are lots of explicit references to sexual organs and sexual situations, although very little actual sex occurs in the book. Most of this book is about longing, about not understanding, and maybe most importantly about being honest about desire. It takes decades for Billy to assemble enough layers of perception to overcome the mixed bag of self-loathing and guilt so he can finally discover who he is supposed to be. The next step is finding a way to be comfortable with the person he finds. Irving takes us through the Vietnam era where men had the choice of checking the “homosexual tendencies” box that would label them 4-F or unfit for service. (Being in the closet could cost you your life.) We also experience the carnage to his friends as the beginning of the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s sweeps through his acquaintances with efficient devastation. I can only hope that people who are afraid of themselves, afraid of who they love and desire, will read this book and feel a little braver about accepting who they were meant to be.

  • Garythe Bookworm
    2019-02-28 07:30

    John Irving is a unique force in contemporary fiction. He can be a brave and bold voice for fairness and common sense. The complexity of his plots is matched by the quirkiness of his characters. Sexual identity, with all its twists and permutations, would seem like a perfect fit for the Irving treatment. Sadly, it is not. This story is narrated by Bill Abbott, an impressionable adolescent who is struggling with his bisexuality at a repressive boarding school in the waning days of the 1950's. He comes under the influence of a transsexual librarian with a big heart who provides him with a relevant reading list and his first sexual experience. He embarks on a transcontinental sexual odyssey, occasionally returning to Vermont to bury another of his colorful relatives. One problem is that Bill and his amazing coterie of misfits and malcontents never come alive as characters. They seem to function primarily as agents to further Irving's political agenda. Even if you agree with his premise, that sexual expression is a personal choice which should be guaranteed to all, it is difficult to overlook his awkward prose and mind-numbing repetition. I found the whole thing tiresome. Even the plot, with it's Dickensian twists and coincidences, grated on me. I found myself skimming the last few pages because I just wanted it to end. This was a big disappointment.

  • Trish
    2019-03-10 07:56

    Got to page 102 and it was a struggle. John Irving is a fine writer, but like many men his age, John Updike among them, he goes into his later years with one foot in the grave and one hand on his genitals. I never read so much about breasts and penises in one place without anyone having actual sex. This is fair: he's the author and he can do what he wants. But I'm getting too old for this.

  • Melissa
    2019-02-24 06:50

    As a graduate student I had a great interest in gender studies; I thought that domain was where both the most interesting fiction and scholarship was happening. Unfortunately while reading this novel, it seemed like it was intended a be political statement on gender studies filled with maxims about sexual difference. The actual story was meandering and flat; it needed to be about 150 pages shorter. It should not take a novel 350 pages to become compelling. I kept going because I knew Irving had something to say; I just wish he had more of a story.

  • Jennifer
    2019-03-19 07:32

    john, john, john!!you suck me in. every time!there's this matrix on wikipedia (now deleted, but preserved here: i am sure you have seen it. the matrix makes me sigh and amuses me. it's a conundrum. near the end of the book, I felt like you were ticking boxes. giving readers a list of socially important things to mull. i don't take issue with the issues...they are important and need to be written about so that tolerance and acceptance become the norms...i take issue with the fact this device (is that what it was?) interrupted the flow of the story and yanked me out of my irving induced haze of literary delight. it was like being smacked in the face with a big fish. possibly a frozen big fish.that cost you one-star. no. i will not give it back.i still love me.

  • Tony
    2019-03-20 00:33

    IN ONE PERSON. (2012). John Irving. **. I never thought that an Irving novel would get less than four stars, but this one, in my opinion, did. I had lots of trouble with this novel right from the start. We meet Billy, the hero of the novel. Billy leads us along through his early life in the small town of First Sister, Vermont, where he grew up and met his first group of sexual rebels – although that isn’t apparent from early descriptions. Billy, it turns out, is bisexual. His problem is that he carries a load of guilt with him about the suitability of falling in love with the “wrong” types. By wrong, he means, of course, men with men. His first love is with the librarian of the small town, Miss Frost. His attraction to Miss Frost is on both an intellectual and sexual level. He is, after all, only thirteen years old when he first meets her. He is fascinated by her small breasts – seemingly encased in a training bra. This item of apparel is constantly commented on by various members of Billy’s family in a negative way that Billy doesn’t pick up on until much later. It turns out that Miss Frost is a trans-sexual, which finally explains lots of things for Billy. His next attraction is for a companion of his from his school (an all boy academy) with whom he takes a trip after graduation before going on to college. He struggles to understand these different forms of muted desire. He does have girlfriends, but those relationships are fairly glossed over. His family doesn’t seem to provide much guidance for Billy’s various fixations. All of his relatives seem to have proclivities that fall outside of the traditional mean, and which provide Billy with a shifting sense of normal. We share Billy’s life as he is growing up and ultimately discovers who he is, and learn that the author is using him to lead the charge for his purpose in writing this novel: we need to learn to respect sexual preferences and differences in other people. The story ultimately leads to Irving’s examination of STDs, but particularly AIDS, as it has reflected the various changes that have arisen in our personal views of sexuality. What gave me problems with this novel is the feeling I had that I was, as a reader, being set up. The plot and story line were leading us down the author’s path in a very manipulative way. The characters themselves were stock, taken from Irving’s earlier books. In all, I felt that though the author has the right to write anything he wants, he has a responsibility to provide his dedicated readers with his best efforts. This was not one of Irving’s best efforts.

  • Jonathan
    2019-03-06 08:47

    I am the editor and publisher of this novel. Here's what I think about it:We use the word "great' so often that we've degraded its meaning. Great haircut! Great idea! Great casserole! So what can I say, without committing sins of hyperbole, about an author who truly does possess greatness?IN ONE PERSON is John Irving's thirteenth novel. Having closely read all of the others, I can say with some confidence that it is as relevant to our time and as satisfying a story as were THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, THE CIDER HOUSE RULES, and A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY when they were published.Like those works, IN ONE PERSON addresses the search for identity and connection in a world that is not always tolerant of unconventional people. John Irving has long been a champion for sexual freedom. In this novel, his portrait of the life and loves of a bisexual man, and the mutability of gender and desire, will be a revelation for some and an affirmation for others.The novel is dedicated to Tony Richardson, a noted film director who brought THE HOTEL NEW HAMPSHIRE to the screen. In his memoir, Richardson wrote this about John Irving's fiction: "He seems to me to be one of the most original and towering of contemporary writers. He is a born storyteller in the tradition of Fielding and Dickens, with, like them, an ability to see his characters from the well as depicting their feelings and passions physically from the outside....I predict that John's courage and the range of his universe will still be durable when many of his more intellectually acclaimed rivals will have dwindled away."I hope you will experience IN ONE PERSON as deeply as I have. If you've never read John Irving before, this novel is an entertaining and enriching way to begin. If you've read him before, welcome back. You will once again marvel at the craft and imagination and probity of a great American writer.

  • Gary
    2019-03-20 01:00

    I can remember the first time I heard anything about John Irving. I was in college, at a family reunion. My Dad had two cousins, spinsters, sisters ,never been married. In their 70's. They were in something called a "bookclub". (This was the early 80s.) I'd never heard of a "bookclub"? What was that? They were talking about the different books they had been reading in their club,and all their members were about their age. Except this one "girl" as they called her. Now considering their age this "girl" could have been 55 for all I knew. These old ladies were charming, funny,and they had had a couple cocktails by now.....This new "girl" had suggested this new book to read in the "club" called THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP by John Irving. These old "girls" were talking about how they tried to read this book,and it was filth, absolute filth. I asked my mother for an ink pen,and a slip of paper which she dug out of her purse,and I wrote down the title and author, and slipped the paper in my pocket. I thank these ladies for exposing me to Irving. I got a paperback copy the following day at the shopping center,and began to read....hooked....big time. I became an Irving fan right there. I read his other books,and CIDERHOUSE RULES was a biggie for me. I read a couple others,and wasn't as enamored with those as his earlier works. Then a goodreads buddy told me he was reading this one. I had downloaded it onto my NOOK , when it first came out, but just hadn't gotten to it yet...till yesterday......The thing about Irving that I have liked is he isn't afraid to hit subjects that curl some people toes. I like controversial books, subjects,and being open minded enough to read about subjects that might make me see a side of things I hadn't thought of before. I may not agree with the subject matter, may not agree with the characters ideals, and I might be shocked at times...but the shock what trips my trigger. I also think Irving is drop dead honest,and honest about things many people just gloss over.11 years ago I started a bookclub. We have read some things that might bother some people . We read MIDDLESEX, which I think is a great book,and 2 of the members in the club flat out refused to read it due to its subject matter. Such a shame they were that closed minded. I think the same can be said about this novel. Those people have no idea what they are missing. For one thing, Irving is a great writer. He weaves a tale that keep you guessing, keeps you glued to your chair, furiously reading.....However, Irving deals with his subjects, & his characters in honest, charming, hilarious, raw, open minded, and mind bending ways that many people can't handle. I don't have a problem with it, because I try to be open minded,and willing to be challenged to think in different ways. Irving's not afraid to hit on something that he knows will make some people seethe with anger,and yet others come away from his works with wow.....hadn't thought about it that way. His characters are real.... they speak their minds. They are quirky yes, open, accessible, shocking, vulnerable, thought provoking.... and the list goes on. I found in this novel that I cared about all the characters deeply. I wanted them to be happy,and to be able to make heads or tails of their messy lives,and feel triumphant in their endeavors to live their lives the way they truly want, without someone trying to make them feel they are less of a person or feel judged for the choices they make....or things they feel. Life is messy, and you have to cope....which is what I think Irving tries to say in all his works & to make us think...think for ourselves.... to be bold.... to be not afraid to do what you feel is right.This novel will stick with me for a long time to come...just like GARP has and CIDERHOUSE RULES has. I think I need to read THE PRAYERS OF OWEN MEANY. I hear constantly that it's people's fav Irving novel. I have an unread copy on my shelf. For now my 3 tops are GARP, CIDER RULES, and ONE PERSON. I read the whole book in less then 24 hours....and I got nothing accomplished. It felt good to have John back in his game. I couldn't put this one down.I think I am going to suggest we read THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP for my bookclub in 2015. (We have our books chosen a year in advance.) Then maybe someone in the group will talk about that filth we read...Thank you Kath,and Helen for opening my eyes to filth, for opening my eyes to Irving!!!!!

  • BrokenTune
    2019-02-26 02:54

    DNF @ 36%I have decided to move on from this one. There is just nothing in this story that keeps me interested, and that is a huge shame because the premise of the book - a coming of age story of a young guy who discovers he is not fitting in with the people around him because of his outlook on life and his sexuality - sounded somewhat intriguing.I have no idea what to expect, but after just over a third in the book, I just cannot buy into the story or the characters. This is meant to be a tragic comedy, but so far the comedy has escaped me. It does not help that much of the book reminds me of Catcher in the Rye and its protagonist. I could not stand Holden Caulfield. There, I said it. So, having another story centre on a character that seems much like Holden will not work in the book's favour. Not for me, anyway.What's more, none of the other characters seem to be fleshed out (except for old Henry) and so far the construct of personalities that are mostly made up of social stereotypes is just leaving me comparing the book to a number of other books which I would rather be reading.I take this as a sure sign that it is time to move on.Next!

  • B the BookAddict
    2019-03-10 04:32

    In One Person is the tragi/comedic rollicking ride through the life of Bill Abbott; a boy who “has crushes on the wrong people", bisexual writer, graduate of Favourite River Academy in Vermont and finally successful novelist. As is usually the case in John Irving's novels, it features a family of quirky characters, wrestling and tackles the subject of sexual identity. Full of the usual suspects, the novel includes one with a speech impediment, a cross-dresser, a lifelong best friend/sometime lover, an absentee father and of course Bill himself, a writer. There are some wonderful chapters during Bill's early life showcasing the drama club's rendition of Shakespeare's plays; the attempts to cast boys in the female roles were often hilarious. The novel contains a frank view of the aids epidemic of the 1980s and the tragic consequences of this abhorrent disease. I thought this part wonderful purely for it's informative role for readers who did not live through that grim era. Kudos to Irving for highlighting, some thirty years later, the absolute need for safe sex practices. It also speaks of the societal intolerance that gays have had to endure, especially bisexuals; you can empathise with Bill as he endeavours to find his place in society as neither a gay man nor a heterosexual. “Oh how I loved him – especially as a her!”“In reading, as in writing, all one needed – that is, in order to have an utterly absorbing journey – was a believable but formidable relationship”“My dear boy, please don't put a label on me – don't make me a category before you get to know me”In One Person had me hooked from the first page. It has everything one comes to expect from John Irving and then some. Serious, humorous, sometimes sad: an absorbing read for me. Better than Last Night in Twisted River, not as good as the signature The World According to Garp or The Cider House Rules; for all lovers of John Irving novels. Overall, thebook earns a 4★ rating and my hope that Irving keeps writing books until I'm too old to read them.

  • Janice
    2019-03-01 01:50

    I'm going to have to say that this book is my least favorite of Irving's. I can sum it up in three words:Wash, Rinse, Repeat!There were times when I thought I was reading A Prayer for Owen Meany. Change the name of the narrator and the town, and instead of focusing on friendship and the Vietnam War, focus on homosexuality and the Aids Epidemic.Like I said - wash, rinse, repeat.

  • lana
    2019-03-13 08:53

    I am conflicted in my feelings about this book. The tone of the story is everyday, and that serves to normalize the "deviant" sexualities on display. This is sucessful, and in many ways, the point. However , there is a strange tension between the hard-to-believe and the boring. I found it hard to accept the high percentage of gay, cross-dressing, or transgender people (there is just one lesbian woman, Gerry) in a small town, all of whom are connected somehow to Billy, the bisexual narrator. Billy, who writes only 4 novels in the course of his career, never has to take on other work for money, and yet he doesn't do much interesting with himself. He has been normalized so far as to be dull, and though the people in his life who play brief roles (Miss Frost, Kitteredge, Franny, even Donna) are far more interesting, they are gone from the narrative too quickly. The last third of the book is a roll call of the sick and dying, and while this should be poignant (Vietnam, AIDS), it's too rote. At the end, Billy claims that Gee changes his life- he becomes a teacher, he becomes a little political- but really Billy doesn't seem to change much throughout the narrative. It's as though the others revolve around him, and he is far more the observer than the participant. As Larry, Billy's friend and former lover says, Billy keeps too much distance. All that said, there aren't too many books that take on a bisexual male narrator, and so that was interesting enough.

  • Robyn Roscoe
    2019-03-01 01:55

    I was a John Irving devotee for much of my life. Since I first read Garp, I have been an avid fan of Irving's writing, and have enjoyed much of it. But since The Fourth Hand, I've been feeling somewhat cheated, and this latest novel was the last straw. I confess I have not finished it, but I am so completely detached and disinterested in the story and characters I am not compelled to spend my time slogging through to the end. On top of the familiar people and places (New England town with a boys school; a father absent in mysterious circumstances associated with a war; a mother and family who are strange and strained; wrestling), the novel is very poorly written. This is actually the worst part of the experience. I long for the well crafted story, the characters that made you care, and the experiences that both surprised and satisfied. In this novel, Irving spoils his own story over and over again, essentially telling us what is going to happen well in advance and then dragging out the actual reveal through page after page of tedious description and narrative. I know Irving can write a story with characters I care about, so either he needs to listen to his editors or get some new ones.Since I didn't get through more than about a third of this book, I don't know what actually happens to Billy through his life. Sadly, I don't really care. If this story was meant to develop understanding of the tribulations of the LGBT community, it fails to accomplish that. It also fails to interest or entertain.

  • Michael
    2019-03-07 04:54

    I loved this big-hearted novel that portrays the life trajectory of boy growing up bisexual in a small Vermont town in the 50's and his erotic and personal transformations to old age. Coming of age for Bill begins to veer in disturbing fashion by crushes on "the wrong people". These include a fellow private school student, who is a champion wrestler and actor in the town drama group, and older women such as the town librarian, Miss Frost. Despite the usual homophobic repression and antagonism from the small town society and many of Bill's family members, his vibrant spirit is supported by a special set of people. Prominent among these resources are a cross-dressing grandfather, Bill's peer faculty brat at the prep school and lifelong best friend Elaine, and, above all, Miss Frost, who opens his world through books, such as James Baldwin's "Giovanni's Room". His launch upon the world is like many an old-fashioned tale of explorers of unknown worlds. Beyond the wonderful story and cast of marvelous characters, Irving makes a valuable contribution by elucidating the unusual challenges of bisexuals. In an interview in Portland magazine, Irving notes that "The only part of 'bisexual' that most straight men get is the gay part. Many gay men distrust bisexual men. Gay guys of my generation often believed that bisexuals didn't really exist; they were usually presumed to be gay guys with one foot in the closet. And straight women trust bi guys even less than they trust straight guys. (A bi guy could leave you for another woman or for a guy.)" Irving's love for his characters shines in "In One Person". The overall sympathy for the fate of his characters extends to the reader, whom he warns about future tragedies or impending big turns in events, such as losses from the AIDS epidemic. Bill's bravery in charting his life course is inspired beautifully by friendships with two transgender women.

  • Shane
    2019-02-24 01:30

    Irving is known to tackle the tough issues of our times, sexuality, Vietnam, abortion, and in this novel: gender crossing.Billy, the bi-sexual narrator, is a successful author in his late sixties, who has had an upbringing and career not unlike Irving’s, who is reflecting on his life and his “outsider” status. His theatrical family helped confuse gender for him right from the get-go: his grandfather was a cross-dresser, so was his absentee father, the Shakespearean theatre productions put on by his high school often had boys playing female characters, and his first real love was transgender librarian Miss Frost. Billy also is attracted to a wrestler on his school team, Kittredge, who is in turn gender-confused; Kittredge’s mother has been sleeping with her only son for years to help cure him of his attraction to the male sex. Billy makes no bones that he is attracted to both sexes and has many transient lovers throughout the book, his ideal being the lover “with small breasts and a big cock.” The only long-term relationship he has (on and off sexually, but permanently on a platonic level) is with his childhood friend Elaine, whose bra he keeps hidden under his pillow. I wondered whether with some of the explicit but humorous situations described in this book, Irving was trying to take on Philip Roth’s Portnoy.The most dramatic part of this book is Billy and his cohort’s passage through the AIDS epidemic between 1981 and 1989. Irving describes, in excruciating detail, the AIDS related illnesses that take so many of Billy’s contemporaries away: pneumocyctis pneuomnia, vacuolar myelopathy, esophageal candidiasis, cytomegalovirus and fulminant diarrhea, to name a few. Billy (who’s been using condoms since ’68) is spared, and walks through this death passage like a ghost, full of survivor guilt, feeling even more the outsider. He sees gay caregivers succumb, the wives of bisexual men get infected and their children commit suicide, and single mothers of afflicted children inject themselves with their dying offsprings’ blood in order to share in the tragedy. What was a funny book detailing Billy’s coming of age in the ’60’s becomes a dark tale by the time we arrive in the ’80’s.The narrative style is disappointing: conversational, first person, jumping forward in time and back frequently and full of parenthetical explanations. We return to the same scene or situation many times over during the book and on each visit Irving gives us a bit more information for dramatic impact, a kind of writer’s cop-out.I wondered whether Billy’s adventures and reflections were meant to arrive at the conclusion given to him by his father: “We already are who we are, aren’t we?”. All he can do is find a greater deal of acceptance and integration as we move into the new millennium. And yet, with this book, Irving has blown our stereotypical impressions of gender wide open to embrace new permutations and combinations of what it is to be “normal.”This is not another Garp, but it certainly is an extension of Owen Meany with its amateur theatrical family setting, weak narrator, absentee father, surrogate step-father, strong maternal figures, and grand theme (AIDS instead of Vietnam)—yet another exploration of a subject that we prefer to keep in the taboo closet.

  • Sally Wilson
    2019-03-10 01:42

    Let me preface this review by saying I am reading this book for my book club. And now let me say I would rather be reading anything but this book. Okay, perhaps not Toni Morrison's 'Beloved' but pretty much anything else.Good golly, this book is tedious. Very. I don't care about the main character and the 'storyline' is meandering and boring. Literally counting down the pages and then I'll be giving this book away to the first taker. Anyone want it after this glowing review? It probably burns pretty well.Update 10/6/12: Well, I just finished this book and I feel I need to add that although I didn't love it and I am very glad to have finished it, it was well-written, and that's why I gave it two stars. It's just not an uplifting or inspiring storyline.

  • Meg
    2019-03-13 04:47

    Man.Despite reading a couple of good reviews I was still pretty skeptical of this book. I hold a couple of Irving's novels in very high esteem. I enjoyed Last Night in Twisted River enough, but remember it taking me a long time to get into it. I know I struggled through the first half of Until I Find You and absolutely loved the second half (the first half being around 400 pages). The Fourth Hand was pretty much disappointing but A Widow for One Year I adored. I remember how hard I fell for John Irving when Derek introduced me to him 13 years ago. I devoured Cider House Rules and A Prayer for Owen Meany, but The World According to Garp was the one that really sucked me in and stuck to me the longest. I think Irving owns the ability to describe those small moments that could easily pass you by if you weren't present. He knows exactly how to capture the present, a moment, in a way that still catches me off guard. Sure, a lot of the characters come back to learn and realize much of what they didn't understand and how it affected them, but it's the experiences that many of these characters have once they've found that understanding and learned to be present that touch me the most. I'm possibly not so great at saying how, but Irving's prose speaks deeply to me. This novel certainly surprised me and blew away my expectations. I felt a lot of the same emotions I experienced reading Garp: interest, confusion, concern, anticipation, sadness, contentment and happiness. Completely satisfied on every level of a captivating read.

  • Suzanne
    2019-03-24 01:43

    John Irving's newest novel has a strong voice. It reads like a memoir. I'm having a difficult time reviewing this book, though I've been reading it for almost two weeks. It feels like four. This is not a good sign. There were several characters who shape Bill Abbot, the protagonist, but not the hero. This epic begins when Bill is a child and follows him until he is almost seventy, but not in a linear fashion. Bill's lfe journey takes him from Vermont to N. Y. to San Francisco to Europe and finally back to Vermont.Bill's family, like most families, is complex, quirky, but in the end accepting and loving. I guess Bill is trying to find himself. This is difficult for heterosexuals. I imagine homosexuals, bi sexuals and transexuals have more issues. I think that my problem with In One Person is that most of Bill's friends and family members also have many difficulties establishing who they are. Many of them struggle with their dishonest choices and AIDs. Bill decides who he is and lives as a bi sexual openly in early adolesence. He has many partners and several lovers. He becomes a successful writer. He looses many of frinds and lovers to AIDs. In fact, as he and Elaine (friend/lover) tend their dying friends, I was very affected. Yet the wrestling coach has taught Bill one good move, the "duck under." Bill buries at least five friends, but he is able to duck under the disease.Finally Bill returns to "change" life at Famous River and Gee and her classmates. This part reminded me of Mr. Holland's Opus. I thought the ending was sacharrine. Thinking about the whole book, the word false comes to mind. I think Irving wrestled with this book more than Bill struggled with his life. Irving, because of his past successes was able to publish and sell In One Person. I think his one good move, the "duck under" will not be able to save this book.

  • Rebecka
    2019-03-19 05:42

    This book seriously annoyed me. This review may make me seem somewhat fanatic, but once I get hung up on something in a book, that's it, I can't really let it go. The low rating for this book is based on one huge pet peeve of mine: authors not doing their research - combined with ridiculous stereotypes. Also, I might throw in "extremely unrealistic and weird-sounding dialogue", "unrealistic events Hollywood movie style" and "generally zero credibility". I never for a second while reading this book forgot that I was reading a book and that it was all "made up". That was pretty obvious.BUT! Regardless of all those minor issues, from the very moment the Norwegian Nils Borkman appears on stage, this book was pretty much ruined for me. How many times does the author need to repeat that Nils is Norwegian or Scandinavian, and that he's depressed or suicidal? Now, he says that Nils' English is "clear but imperfect", and then more or less every time Nils has a line he makes these oh so quirky "foreign" mistakes, which, without fault, consists in mixing up the word order of composite words or adjectives + nouns. Every single time (well, except for when he says "mortally mere" instead of "merely mortal" or "something saying" instead of "saying something", which are also mistakes that make little sense to make for a Scandinavian). That is apparently the only issue this foreigner has with the English language. He takes a composite word - all of them, basically - and switches the order of the words around. Hah, hilarious! Because Norwegian is not a language closely related to English with those same goddamned words with the same goddamned order in them? Those are not mistakes a Norwegian would make. Seriously, if you, as an author, are going to make this a major character trait of a character, then do some research. "Time next" instead of "next time" when Norwegian has the exact same word order (ALWAYS). Or how about "stereo sex-types" when in Norwegian, it's "seksuelle stereotyper". Not very different. Every single time there was a scene with Nils, I just waited for his obligatory mistake and got equally annoyed every time they appeared and were as stupid as the last one. After reading this book, I will never, ever use the expression "It suffices to say" again (it appears 6 times!). I may also never read another Irving book, even though I loved The world according to Garp.

  • switterbug (Betsey)
    2019-03-12 00:50

    Too self-conscious and heavy handed. It read like a freshman author's overreaching or a trunk novel. There were times I even squirmed because it was so twee. Way too earnest, melodramatic, and repetitive. It borders on doddering.I am a huge heartfelt fan. I met him, too, when he came to speak in Austin, and I snuck into the stiff collar party afterwards. He was deliciously friendly. I have a pic with him on my bookshelf. He's one of my literary heroes, ever since I discovered Garp while in college. Ok, so he wrote a dud. He's human. I still love me some John Irving and I will undoubtedly be shoving my way to the front of the line for his next book.

  • Sharon Metcalf
    2019-03-09 08:59

    I'd heard of John Irving naturally but I'd never read any of his books, quite possibly never would have either if not for GoodReads. The number of ratings and high average scores told me enough to know he's a popular author. So when I saw some of his books at bargain prices I decided to give him a try. I bought two titles but in all honesty they could have remained unread for months or years given the huge backlog of TBR titles on my shelves. Then a couple of ladies in BT were commenting on how much they love his books so I decided to bring him forward and I wasn't disappointed. This book was about Bill Abbott and we heard about his life from roughly the age of 13 until he was approaching 70. If asked that old question "what was it about?" it was really about his life, about his emerging sexuality as he realises he's attracted to both guys and girls. It's about his life as a bisexual man, about his family, his friends and his lovers. Importantly it's about his opinion of himself and how others treated him. It's about two early "crushes" or fixations he had and how they followed him through life. It's about the AIDS epidemic and what it was like to live through such an experience whilst many of your friends and even lovers were dying of the disease. In the story Bill was an author and one of his live in lovers (and very dear lifelong friend) Larry described Bill as "...a fiction writer, but he writes in the first person voice in a style that is tell all confessional; in fact,his fiction sounds as much like a memoir as he can make it sound". To me that perfectly summed up how I felt about John Irvings writing in this novel. Another line in the book was "before you can write anything you have to notice something". This writing was so convincing either John Irving really was writing a memoir style book (which he wasn't because I Googled to check) or his powers of observation must be impeccable. And for one last quote that described the way I read when I'm particularly enjoying a book. Miss Frost (Bills first and longest love) acused him of "...reading with the reckless desperation of a burglar ravishing a mansion". Her advice was to slow down and savor, don't gorge. I think I gorged (I definitely gorged) but I'm sure that now it's finished I'll will continue to savour and will look forward to many more John Irving books.

  • Víctor Antón
    2019-02-27 05:45

    Segunda vez que leo esta novela. Irving me gusta por su humor comedido y por su maestría a la hora de manejar el tiempo de la narración. Algunos lo podrán tachar de repetitivo en sus temas (y no creo que anden desatinados con esa crítica), pero compensa su "mundo cerrado" con pequeñas variaciones en sus personajes y sus historias.

  • DT
    2019-03-23 06:51

    If I judge IN ONE PERSON by how fast I read it (just under a week, fast for me), it rates five stars; but if I judge it solely by the quality of the characters and whether or not the plot is compelling, I'd have to give it 5 and a half stars. In the “pantheon” of undeniably memorable Irving characters, Billy Abbott is right up there with Bogus Trumper, Jenny Fields, T.S. Garp, Franny Berry, Dr. Larch, Owen Meany, Ted and Ruth Cole, Doris Clausen, Jack Burns and Ketchum, the irascible logger from LAST NIGHT IN TWISTED RIVER.Billy's transformation from scared and uncertain boy, from shame to pride -- nicely reflected in the "behind the scenes" goings one, with a production of "The Tempest" -- is handled with compassion and humor by Irving, whose deftness with plot and dialogue and character development only gets better with time. In fact, the character of Miss Frost is the second, very welcome, revelation (character-wise) where Irving's latest novel is concerned. While longtime readers might see certain similarities shared between Miss Frost and Roberta Muldoon (of "Garp"), Miss Frost is a far more complicated character. Any reader who isn’t beguiled by her needs a heart checkup. For Billy, Miss Frost plays many roles in his life, all of them good and wise and kind. If Billy Abbot is the muscle and the soul of IN ONE PERSON, then Miss Frost is the very heart of the book.And the secondary, or supporting, characters in this novel are likewise interesting. Elaine, in some ways, follows in the line of assertive women lovers, or would-be lovers, found in many other Irving novels: Franny Berry, Melony, Hester the Molester, Hannah, Susan Oastler – though Elaine is far less aggressive than those girls (Geraldine, of course, “takes up the slack” where that trait is concerned). But it is the triumvirate of Mary Abbott (nee’ Dean), her sister Muriel, and Mary’s eventual husband, Richard Abott which really drew my attention. My first impression was that they, along with Nana Victoria, are the flip side of the record; the negative of a photograph taken when you wrote “Owen Meany”. With their continuous negative statements and observations, Victoria, Muriel, and, eventually, Mary are almost the complete opposites of Granny Wheelwright, Tabitha and Martha. And weak-willed Richard Abott is the “flip side” of Dan Needham. For me, the transformation of Mary’s character was quite powerful, even if she is merely a supporting character in a larger "passion" play.(A side note: there will likely be those who complain about characters, Irving archetypes, who seem similar, or themes that seem to have been revisited, etc. One has to ask, Why do these "nattering nabobs" never "whing" about painters who revisit images? Worse, those same people were probably the ones who complain loudly when Irving DOESN'T repeat something they, themselves, particularly enjoy from past novels [as many did with A SON OF THE CIRCUS -- It's set in India! There are no bears! Why is Irving writing about a serial killer? And so on]).If "Twisted River", along with THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP and A WIDOW FOR ONE YEAR, makes up the perfect third of a literary tryptich on the art of fiction (and in my mind, it certainly does), then IN ONE PERSON works as the perfect literary antithesis of A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY. And, coming as it does during a time when Americans are experiencing increased intolerance of people's sexuality (just check out the news some time -- the stories out of Washington, D.C. are horrendous), IN ONE PERSON is both a timely political novel and an entertaining and enlightening Bildungsroman. I believe it will eventually become as important in the Irving ouevre as THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, THE CIDER HOUSE RULES, A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY and A WIDOW FOR ONE YEAR.

  • Sarah
    2019-03-11 07:57

    This is a very John Irving John Irving book. He has elevated "write what you know" to an art form. There's a boy with a single mother and an absent father (see also Owen Meany, Garp). He grows up to be a writer (Garp). (view spoiler)[There are transgendered former athletes (see Garp) and little boys who play dressup (Hotel New Hampshire). (hide spoiler)] It's set in New England (Owen Meany, Hotel New Hampshire, Cider House Rules, um, almost all of his books?) with a boys' boarding school (Hotel New Hampshire) and a trip to Vienna (Hotel New Hampshire). There's a grand old house (Hotel New Hampshire, Owen Meany) and a domineering grandmother (Owen Meany) and a jock older male relative (Hotel New Hampshire). There's a character whose every sentence is cried rather than spoken (Owen Meany). And of course, lots of wrestling.That's just the physical resemblance. Stylistically, I was impressed as always by his ability to weave time backward and forward. Other familiarities grated a bit. With the time-weaving comes a certain amount of necessary reminder, but I thought he didn't trust his reader enough, and spelled out every conclusion even when the event being referenced was fresh in my mind. There were certain words and phrases that he italicized every time he used them, which also felt like it was meant to serve as a reminder to a neglectful reader. There were multiple characters with the same strange psychological affliction in which they could not pronounce certain words. Every character seemed to have a habit of discussing words separate from their meanings: multiple characters used the phrase "the _____ word," say "the table word" to differentiate from the actual table. To address the subject matter, this is the story of one man's life, and specifically his sexual development as a bisexual man. It addresses Stonewall and Vietnam and AIDS, all through Billy Abbott's eyes. Irving has written GLBT characters before, but not as narrator (as far as I remember). Irving has done an interesting thing here. If this book had been a gay author's first novel, I think it would be filed under "gay fiction" and would not reach a mainstream audience. Irving has a particular bully pulpit. He has a chance to reach a mainstream audience that he has already inured to shock, and then see if they are actually inured. I only guess at his desire to shock because of the italics and the fact that most of the beats of the story concern sexual reveals. Or perhaps that is meant to be Billy's writing style, since Billy is a novelist himself. The characters don't always ring true, which might also be a product of Billy's style rather than John Irving's. (view spoiler)[I felt as if his relationship with his mother was left very sketchy compared to other relationships. She was treated as fragile and perhaps even mentally challenged, with minimal development beyond those characteristics; she seemed to be universally scorned or pitied. Also, I found it a little hard to believe that this many members of a single family turned out gay, and this many people in a single small town ended up with the same particular and specific proclivities repeating. I can't tell if he's implying the cause lies with Shakespeare or genetics. In one family there are two men who enjoy wearing women's clothing (one gay, one straight), one bisexual man, one lesbian. (hide spoiler)] I guess I appreciate the story he is trying to tell, even if I didn't love this book the way I loved some of his previous novels. I will say that I've never seen a book of mainstream fiction with this volume and variety of nuanced, sympathetic QUILTBAG characters. It almost felt like he was trying a little too hard.

  • Jessica
    2019-03-03 01:58

    (ARC received from Simon & Schuster via Barnes & Noble. Review crossposted to Irving doesn't really write books. He writes journeys. I once read a director (I believe) quoted regarding adapting A Widow for One Year for film (The Door in the Floor) that adaptations of John Irving novels ought to be considered an art forum unto themselves. Certainly, the scope alone makes adaptation difficult--we meet William "Bill" Abbott at age fifteen in the beginning of the novel, and at the end he's seventy. But the beauty of Irving is that he can make a sixty-year journey in the same head a worthwhile read. The writing: Irving's writing is somehow always magnificent. There are many literary fiction writers I otherwise adore but whose prose in places can't hold my attention; that was not the case here. In this, the writing does its work best bringing to life the incredible cast of characters; and importantly, the fluidity of gender and sexuality among them. Often in writers' circles, you'll hear talk of "How do you write a man if you're a woman writer" or vice versa. Well, how do you write a bisexual man surrounded by characters who are transgendered, cisgendered, straight, gay and everything in between? If you're Irving, the answer is "You write them well." The characters: Another Goodreads reviewer describes Bill as a cipher, and I'm not sure that's entirely inaccurate here. Although I certainly didn't find him a weak character by any means, it is much more fun in this novel to watch the colorful people who populate his world, such as Elaine, Kittredge and Miss Frost. But to me, this makes sense for this book. The immediacy of the first-person narrator means that we see the world through Bill's eyes, and really, he slowly comes to the realizations he does about himself as he discovers the private lives of those around him. So, yes. Bill himself isn't a take-charge, bust-the-walls down kind of narrator. But it's exactly that process that makes the novel so interesting. The plot: PERSON is not a linear novel, which is a technique Irving has used in other novels like WIDOW FOR ONE YEAR. However, and perhaps it's because it's been a few years, this one felt more twisty to me, but in a very good way. As I moved between William's slow discovery of himself and the people around him during his high school years and his uncovering and exploration of his sexuality as an adult and beyond, I felt the perfect tension between knowing that *something* was going to happen with any given character (Kittridge, Delacorte, Elaine) and not knowing exactly what that something was. My only minor quibble with the plot (and it's only a quibble which came to me several weeks after I finished the book), was that in some ways, the things which happened to the other characters were too convenient. I'm gung-ho for books which challenge heteronormativity, but let's face it, there are a lot of boring, straight people in the world and there conveniently weren't very many in Bill's. Upon thinking about it again, I found that odd--but as I was swept up in reading the book over the course of a weekend, I didn't notice it one bit. Overall: When I finished this book, I immediately jumped on my phone and tweeted about what a wonderful read it was and how sad I was to finish. Irving doesn't write novels, he writes journeys, and I found Bill Abbott's journey to be a journey more than worth taking. 4.5 stars out of 5. Rounded down for the coincidental character bit.

  • Melissa
    2019-03-22 07:54

    This book started off strong, but ultimately was dissatisfying. It was really fun to read, but I have to admit that there were plenty of parts where I was saying to myself, "WHAT?? That doesn't make sense!"First of all, much of the structure of the book is related to our narrator Bill's inability to say words that made him uncomfortable. Sometimes the words were something like "penis," but other times, it was a word like "shadow." Fine. That's interesting and unusual. Most people's speech impediment is not based upon individual words they cannot say, so this is an interesting defining character bit. But, in this book, at least TWO OTHER CHARACTERS DO THE SAME THING. I mean, WHAT?? Tom, who goes to his same high school with him, can't say "time"?? Then there are some kids later when he's an adult who also can't say random words? I'm sorry, no. That does not work for me. Also, every time I read Irving write "the ________ word" I wanted to be like, "YOU THINK YOU CLEVER BIATCH?" OK, that's an overreaction. But why did Bill have to always call words "the time word" or "the penis word." Never once does he say, "the word time" or "the word penis." It bugged me.Also, MAN OH MAN did Bill know a lot of male to female transgendered people in his small-town youth. I mean, come on. EVERYONE turned out to be gay or transgendered. Now, I know, a lot of people are gay or transgendered. But it was too much damn coincidence. It struck me as pure absurdity. You know what else? Some gay men didn't die of AIDS in the 80's. I swear. Many survived, uninfected. But you wouldn't know that from this book.But, also, I basically enjoyed the book. I liked how Bill and Elaine had a Truman Capote/Harper Lee thing going on. Bill narrates that Elaine, despite constantly writing, had only written one book, which he believed was better than any of his own books. Sounds like Harper Lee, right? Also, it's a really great book for opening minds about male bisexuality. If you listen to as many Savage Lovecasts as I do, you know that there is a lot of suspicion about the actual existence of bisexual men -- people think they're gay but not willing to let go of their ability to pass as straight. But this book gives decent insight into how a man can have attractions that vary, honestly. That's a worthwhile public service. It was a pretty entertaining book, even if it didn't always make a hell of a lot of sense. There are certainly worse books to invest your time in reading.

  • Julie
    2019-03-15 08:47

    I wish I could give this another star or two, just because it's Irving, but really he is not wearing well. The infinite parenthetical commentary (like there's always something else to add) becomes very irritating. So why (I ask) doesn't he just construct a full sentence and add it into the flow? The resultant prose (if one could call it that) becomes very choppy (making one almost seasick) with the rising and falling of voice. Add to that -- hmmm -- well that irritating -- and disturbing -- perpetual hyphenation. Good Lord above, but John, just STOP IT!!!It's like someone spinning a good tale around the campfire (and John does tell good stories) but while you're trying to listen, someone is simultaneously poking you in the ribs, and whispering in your ear (to make sure you get the point). Well, there goes the whole point of listening to a really good story -- and you walk away from the warmth of the campfire, and run screaming into the darkness, hoping you'll trip over a sharp stick to poke out your memories of a GREAT storyteller gone bad.I was longing for a good John Irving novel but this one did not deliver. I don't think I ever noticed before such protracted use of the parentheses and the hyphens. Maybe it was there, and I was young and crazy and didn't really mind. Even Owen Meany's RAISED VOICE DIDN'T BOTHER ME HALF AS MUCH AS THIS ENDLESS (AND I DO MEAN ENDLESS) ... -- OR MAYBE I MEANT INCESSANT -- OVERUSE OF THE SAID PUNCTUATION MARKS.BIG SIGH. (Oh, Sorry, didn't mean to go on and on with my MEANY VOICE.) Big. Sigh.

  • Don
    2019-03-11 06:39

    Irving has written two great novels (Owen Meaney and Cider House), but he became one of my favorites with a couple of preceding works that were bigger, more boisterous, definitely more outrageous, but somewhat flawed--Garp and Hotel New Hampshire. These are the novels I come back to again and again. These have characters I've never forgotten about. With his new novel, I think he's back in that territory. The novel has it's problems--it pushes the coincidences, it forces humor in places (although it's plenty funny without resorting to slapstick or malapropisms), and it has it's share of flat characters. But that's quibbling--the main characters draw us in an show us their heartbreakingly human sides. It takes us into a world that some of us have never been to and don't plan to go, but it reminds us how we've all got our problems and that dignity isn't something that's just handed to you. I'm sure I'll be thinking about this one a long time--and I'll read it again (and maybe again and again).