Friday, 15 March 2013

John Irving's "In One Person" book review

Copyright Simon & Schuster, Garp Enterprises 2012
Opening up a new John Irving novel is like re-establishing contact with an old friend. You pick up where you left off. You know what you are going to talk about already. This book has many common themes with "The World According To Garp" published back in 1978 - boarding school, weird families, wrestling, sexuality, cross dressing, fame and story telling. The bears theme even reappears but this is Irving's little joke - we ain't talking about brown, black or grizzlies either.
I love Mr Irving's writing style - personal, leisurely, self-deprecating, witty, but also confronting and at times raunchy. He peoples his novels with rich, quirky characters. You won't forget in a hurry Bill's cross dressing grandfather or the crusty old wrestling coach Herm Hoyt. This book is written in first person - the life of a Bill Abbott, a bisexual writer, stretching from the late 50's in New England (surprise, surprise) to New York City in the middle of the 1980's AIDS crisis through to present day.  It contains more dialogue than I remember in other Irving books.  I have read only read 6 of his 13 novels: "The World According to Garp", "The Hotel New Hampshire", "Last Night in Twisted River", "A Widow for One Year" and "The Fourth Hand".  The last two on my list are my favourites - full of haunting descriptions and rich prose.

Mr Irving has the ability to blend tragedy with wild humour. His plea for tolerance of diversity and respect for individuality is done with style, rather than beating the reader over the head with it. It's also a page-turner, taking the reader to San Francisco, New York, rural Vermont, Vienna and Madrid. You want to find out the fate of Bill's friends and family. This is a passionate and intensely moral book. Life is complicated. People are complicated - so show compassion.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments welcome. Spam and links will be deleted by administrator.