In One Person

John Irving

In One Person

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, 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'.

3.4 out of 5 based on 10 reviews
In One Person

Omniscore:

Classification Fiction
Genre General Fiction
Format Hardcover
Pages 448
RRP
Date of Publication May 2012
ISBN 978-0857520968
Publisher Doubleday
 

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, 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'.

Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving.

Reviews

The Guardian

Steven Poole

William takes two-thirds of this substantial novel to grow up; the rest of it is episodic epilogue, with increasingly bleak but often still very funny fragments of scenes from the following half-century. People begin to contract Aids; in one virtuosically unsentimental scene, William visits a dying former lover. What initially seemed an unbalanced novelistic structure is vindicated by the way we greet William's old friends, now grown older and more or less sick, with a delighted or dismayed recognition, since we too spent so much time with them all those years ago ... If a novel were simply a plea for understanding of sexual difference, it would be bad art; this book is elevated beyond the merely political by, among other things, the ebullient voice of its narrator.

11/05/2012

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The Daily Mail

Harry Ritchie

As Kittredge’s scandalised son says accusingly to Bill, who has become a John Irving-ish novelist, ‘You make all these sexual extremes seem normal and then you expect us to sympathise with them’. Well, yes - that’s the point of this and every other John Irving novel, and here the updating of Bill’s story to 80s New York and the AIDS epidemic adds an emotional charge and depth.

10/05/2012

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The Times

Tim Teeman

Irving does not plead for tolerance or browbeat for understanding. He does something more radical: he expects you to take his characters for who they are. They are too individual for anything so confining as labels. Gender and sexuality are both fluid in IrvingWorld. This wonderful novel is an epic, moving survey of 70 years of sexual revolution.

28/04/2012

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The Washington Post

Ron Charles

Fans — and attentive detractors — will easily fill their John Irving bingo cards with the author’s usual motifs and references to his own life, but it’s certainly not one of his ridiculous books, like The Fourth Hand, or even one of his tragically flawed ones, like Last Night in Twisted River. Instead, the sophisticated and garish elements of In One Person are laced together in an act of literary transvestism … The heart of Irving’s sympathy may stem from the way he frames bisexuality as a metaphor for his own creative life. When Billy’s bitter mother says, “Novels are just another kind of cross-dressing,” she’s clearly touching on the indeterminate nature of the writer’s mind, the omnivorous consciousness needed to inhabit all different kinds of characters.

08/05/2012

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The Financial Times

David Evans

All this amounts to the sort of big-hearted celebration of difference that Irving has long been known for. But he has rarely written with the gorgeous poise and control he musters here – and in any case, as one of Billy’s own admirers puts it, “pleas for tolerance never grow tiresome”.

26/05/2012

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The Spectator

Peter Parker

There is a generosity of spirit here reminiscent of Robertson Davies, but there is also something of the Canadian writer’s bagginess in the prose, a genially lumbering quality to the book and its comedy where what one really needs is nimbleness and wit.

02/06/2012

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The New York Times

Janet Maslin

It is indeed a return to form for Mr. Irving to bring on the italics, exclamation points, bizarre quirks and rampant adorability of The World According to Garp (1978), The Hotel New Hampshire (1981) and The Cider House Rules (1985), to name the old books that this new one most resembles. It is also a return to form for Mr. Irving to entertain and exasperate in equal measure. What’s impressive about “In One Person” is its open fascination with bisexuality, cross-dressing, the politics of gender bending and the ravages of the AIDS epidemic. What’s detrimental is the broad fancifulness of the clowning ...

09/05/2012

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The Los Angeles Times

David L. Ulin

At times, the whole thing feels like a mash-up, drawing elements from Garp, The Hotel New Hampshire and A Widow for One Year, although it doesn't reframe those novels so much as it refracts them, tracing an unlikely line through territory we've seen before. That is — or should be — a good thing, a writer revisiting his material from a different angle, turning (or re-turning) it over and over, seeing it through a fresh lens. But In One Person never delivers on that sense of freshness, settling for a posture of contrivance instead … In the end, this is where In One Person stumbles, when it tries to fuse social commentary with art. That isn't to say one can't write a political novel, but the politics have to emerge from the characters, not the other way around.

13/05/2012

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The Literary Review

Sam Kitchener

If you promise to keep it from my mother and my girlfriend, there is probably something to the idea that transvestitism expresses profound truths about the multiple nature of human identity. Irving just lays it on a little thick. Almost everyone that Billy meets dances between gender boundaries. His grandfather, Harry, has a monopoly on female roles in the town’s am-dram productions; his father, William, had a similar monopoly in school plays. Even the local bully gets a sex change.

01/05/2012

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The Sunday Times

Stephen Amidon

Unfortunately, the author’s artistry is not always a match for his sterling intentions. Irving could never be accused of being an overly subtle ­stylist, and here his tendency to steamroll the reader leaves the book feeling flat. Billy’s varied sexual encounters are described with such clinical, voluminous specificity that they may prove off-putting to prudish readers, while also frustrating those in search of erotic thrills. Irving’s signature set pieces, famous for their ribald humour, fall flat more often than not here ...

13/05/2012

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