Saturday, May 31, 2014

In One Person


I'll begin with my score:
This novel scores a 9 out of 10 in my humble opinion. I loved it!

I'v read other novels of John Irving, and they were good, but not as dead on as this story.
William Abott is the main character in this novel, he tells the story and we see the world momentarily through his eyes only. We know what he knows, nothing more, and certainly nothing less.
William is very straightforward. It's very early in the novel that we come to understand that William has peculiar crushes. For instance he falls in love with the new husband of his mother, and later on, with a librarian who's double his age and who has exceptionally large hands. Even his fascination with teenage bra's and the breasts they contain are very visually and verbally explained.
With so much infomation, this novel never feels tedious. The manner in which Irving spins the story is as frightening and beautiful as a spider weaving its web. It's a thick novel, but I've been neglecting sleep a lot just to read another chapter (I read mostly in bed) before I turn out the light. Maybe the sleep deprevation made me look into this novel another way.
As William grows up, we follow his path on how to live being bisexual, because he both likes men and women, especially those with small breasts. He experienced gay sex before he had sex with a woman, and you'll love his anecdote about his first sexual experience entering a woman's vagina. I'm putting it in these words, if you'll read the novel you'll understand why.
William also has a inclination towards transsexuals (aka transgenders). As we heterosexuals and homosexuals may think he has the best of both worlds, being bisexual, but think about it. The novel definitely made me think about it. Being bisexual actually means that you'll never be fully contented with either sex. You can never have both. Of course William's partners don't trust him fully either and he never has a relationship that lasts.
Elaine, William's best friend, from the days he was still finding out who he was, stands by him and they even try living together but they wait too late and can't seem to fall into the familiar pattern of being lovers. Still, they maintain their friendship. They both used to love a guy who was on the wrestling team, who (in my words) gave them a total mindfuck.
We follow William through his live, he tells it while he's already experiencing old age. He grows up to become a known writer and his books support more sexual diversity and acceptance.
Then the AIDS-epidemic strikes and everything takes a dark turn. I didn't know that NY lost more souls in that period of time than America lost in Vietnam. It took place when I still watched toddler tv and enjoyed being read to. The novel takes on a glum vibe, and as William watches his friends and friends of his friends die one by one, he needs to think about what the past life has been like for him. It was filled with a sexual awakening amongst the gay scene, from a single bar opening towards a movement they fights for gay rights. Hand in hand with that awakening was a kind of irresponsibility. AIDS brought terror as well as death. Being gay wasn't considered awkward anymore, but people began to avoid them and putting labels on them, for instance that they brought the disease on them themselves.
Ignorance reigned in that era, and William eventually makes the decision of moving back to Vermont and live in his grandfathers house. The third part of the novel is kind of how the plague must have felt in the old days. Williams sees so many around him dying, not only of AIDS, but also many of his family die. His mother dies in a car crash and later on his grandfather shoots himself through the head because he misses his girls. William goes back to his roots and teaches in the school he went to himself, seeing the world anew after the worst of the AIDS-epidemic has come and gone. He sees a new revival of the gay scene, but more responsible, more targeted towards getting the same rights as heterosexuals instead of hoping not to get beaten when coming out of the closet.
I can go on and on telling you about this novel, and I congratulate myself I've told so much already without giving much plot away. This is a gem of a novel, about a very unusual topic. Everyone with an open mind is going to love it.

3 comments:

  1. Very nice review, Nath. I have read a portion of this novel, but I put it down. I'm not sure why even now, but I have done this in the past with Irvings work. I do think it has to do with his ability to really get to the core of his characters and in turn we also feel all the pleasures and pain as well. I always go back to his books. I can still feel that visceral jolt I received after reading a certain passage in the novel, even decades after reading it.

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    1. Thanks for your praise! =)
      I'm not sure why, but I like the sheer nakedness of Irving's writing. He's brutal in his depiction of any subject he chooses.

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    2. He does get to the bone, so to speak. I neglected to mention that it was in The World According to Garp, that I was literally frozen with shock, after reading the passage.

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