Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Saturday, June 02, 2012
In One Person by John Irving: review
John Irving's In One Person is no masterpiece, says James Walton, but it contains many pleasures
John Irving by Blake FitchPhoto: BLAKE FITCH FOR SEVEN MAGAZINE
By James Walton
29 May 2012 - The Telegraph
Now, at the age of 70, it’s John Irving’s turn. Admittedly, the defiant joys of unconventional sexuality have cropped up in his work before: think of the transsexual Roberta Muldoon in The World According to Garp (1978). Here, though, they’re firmly centre-stage.
In One Person is narrated by Bill Abbott, a bisexual novelist who, like many an Irving protagonist before him, has a mysteriously absent father and grows up in a New England private school. As a teenager, Bill has crushes on – among others – his stepfather, the local librarian Miss Frost, his friend’s mother Mrs Hadley and the captain of the school wrestling team. But only with Miss Frost is the relationship consummated, and then not as Bill expects – because it turns out that Miss Frost used to be a wrestler called Big Al.
At the time, this strikes Bill as rather unusual, but once his adult adventures start, the book is packed with people who are to a greater or lesser extent transsexual.
As ever with Irving, we get plenty of story for our money, as he traces Bill, his family, friends and lovers from the Forties to the present day – and with them, the evolution of American sexuality. Not that this evolution is a simple tale of progress. The traditionally benighted Fifties does contain its fair share of the terminally repressed, especially women and school psychologists. Yet, the young Bill also has solid support from people who recognise the unruliness of desire, including his cross-dressing old granddad. Full review at The Telegraph