Saturday, January 25, 2014

In One Person

In One Person
John Irving

Published 2012

First Sentence
"I'm going to begin by telling you about Miss Frost."
Publisher's Description:

"His most daringly political, sexually transgressive, and moving novel in well over a decade" (Vanity Fair). 

 Winner of a 2013 Lambda Literary Award 

 A New York Times bestselling 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. 

Dear Reader,

John Irving has done it again! If you've read Irving before, you know what to expect and this didn't disappoint. Irving brings us a little closer to sexuality with this one, it's a little more "in your face" without hiding it within. He tells the story from the perspective of Billy, a bisexual growing up in Vermont during that time when sexuality was being questioned more than ever. Billy attends an all male school with a step father who teaches the drama class there. His Grandfather is a somewhat closeted cross-dresser (mostly cross-dressing in the Shakespeare plays the school puts on). All around him he has signs that his family is inclined to be somewhat "different" and during this time he starts figuring out his own bisexuality.

Apparently, Irving has openly admitted to having crushes on his male schoolmates and this is where the idea of the book came from. I've always wondered what Irving's sexuality was like since he focuses his books on many controversial sexual related topics. He doesn't state outright that he is bisexual, he does live with his wife in one of his three homes of Toronto, Vermont and Pointe au Baril. I love that he writes what he knows and uses his own experiences in his books. He has a creative mind but the realistic characters come out so vividly, they must be modeled from people he has known.

Getting back to the story, we follow Billy to New York City during the AIDS epidemic and this section of the book was extremely upsetting and sad. During the 80's, AIDS became so prevalent that sometimes you didn't know someone was LGBT until they started dying from the disease (THIS is when they would or had to come out of the closet). I can't imagine what it would have been like to have all your close friends dropping off like flies from this virus. The main character, Billy, even emotes how awful he feels when people ask if he is sick and he has to reply that he isn't. To feel guilt from not catching the virus, that thought amazed me but when I put myself in his shoes... I started to realize that I would have felt the same way.

I think the title of this book is a reflection on how people can have more than "one" person inside of us. How one person can be so many things, why must we narrow it down? Why can't we love people for people and not for what gender they are. Why must we classify ourselves as female or male? Isn't it true that we have characteristics of both, how many times have you heard someone say that they are "Metro" or a "Tom Boy"? This is only a step or two from dressing a different way or trying out a different style. I'm happy we've come this far but this book just made me want to scream at how far we have to go. If you take away anything from this book... take this... Love people or don't love people but don't hate those who love people. Enough said!

Happy Reading,

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