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richardderus

Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud

In One Person - John Irving Rating: 3.75* of five The Book Report: The book description 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.