In One Person
A NovelBook - 2012
"My dear boy, please don't put a label on me - don't make me a category before you get to know me!"
John Irving's new novel is a glorious ode to sexual difference, a poignant story of a life that no reader will be able to forget, a book that no one else could have written.
Told with the panache and assurance of a master storyteller, In One Person takes the reader along a dizzying path: from a private school in Vermont in the 1950s to the gay bars of Madrid's Chueca district, from the Vienna State Opera to the wrestling mat at the New York Athletic Club. It takes in the ways that cross-dressing passes from one generation to the next in a family, the trouble with amateur performances of Ibsen, and what happens if you fall in love at first sight while reading Madame Bovary on a troop transport ship, in the middle of an Atlantic storm. For the sheer pleasure of the tale, there is no writer alive as entertaining and enthralling as John Irving at his best.
But this is also a heartfelt, intimate book about one person, a novelist named William Francis Dean. By his side as he tells his own story, we follow Billy on a fifty-year journey toward himself, meeting some uniquely unconventional characters along the way. For all his long and short relationships with both men and women, Billy remains somehow alone, never quite able to fit into society's neat categories. And as Billy searches for the truth about himself, In One Person grows into an unforgettable call for compassion in a world marked by failures of love and failures of understanding.
Utterly contemporary and topical in its themes, In One Person is one of John Irving's most political novels. It is a book that grapples with the mysteries of identity and the multiple tragedies of the AIDS epidemic, a book about everything that has changed in our sexual life over the last fifty years and everything that still needs to. It's also one of Irving's most sincere and human novels, a book imbued on every page with a spirit of openness that expands and challenges the reader's world.
A brand new story in a grand old tradition, In One Person stands out as one of John Irving's finest works - and as such, one of the best and most important American books of the last four decades.