How is everyone’s summer reading list going? Mine is moving along like the swift and nimble rush of a
I did finish one book though. It wasn’t on my list but when someone brought to my attention that John Irving recently came out with his next novel I was at the bookstore the next day. And as if holding In One Person in my hands wasn’t enough of a joy, another joy introduced itself to me during my neighborhood search for the elusive independent bookstore.
Little did I know that Skylight Books in Los Feliz was such a great place! I didn’t find it at all pretentious, it’s in a great location—-go get a book and then a cup of coffee at Fred 62!—- and they have a whole lineup of great visiting authors at their venue.
But back to John Irving’s book…
I am not a literary critic. I was tempted to go online and read a bunch of book reviews so I could copy the general style of a critic, but why in the world would I do that?? How about I just use my own words and my own way of thinking. First, I will be honest and say that anything Irving writes automatically begins at a 6 on a scale of 1 to 10 for me. The man’s weakest tale (which for me would probably be Hotel New Hampshire) is still more captivating than almost any other modern novel I’ve read. He amazed me when he basically included two novels in one in Until I Find You. And of course, The World According to Garp is going to be a classic. Ciderhouse Rules, The 158-Pound Marriage, and A Widow For One Year are three other favorites of mine.
This latest book is special, though, and probably ranks high for me because of how it is situated in America’s current societal discourse. We’ve been seeing more and more attention paid to equal rights for LGBT individuals. Today’s young people are more comfortable accepting gender differences and there is even a popular pop music video that nonchalantly includes a gay crush in the story’s punchline. In One Person revolves around the life of one bisexual man and introduces the reader to a cast of characters that are just an endearing as any of Irving’s best. As individuals, these characters can’t all be easily categorized into straight, gay, bi, trangender, etc. Irving examines the blurry lines that are the reality of gender and sexuality. We may try to categorize people, but it’s not that simple. The reverberating message of the novel is “Please don’t put a label on me…don’t make me a category before you get to know me.” And ultimately doesn’t that apply to all of us? Isn’t it yet another commonality that we all share? Whatever gender or sexuality we identify with, don’t we all just want to live without judgement and with a modicum of understanding from our fellow humans? So even though Irving has written a novel about characters that may initially appear to be on the fringe—-universes unlike you and I—-he ultimately exposes them to be precisely the opposite. He does it without preaching and without sacrificing all of the quirky and kinky tendencies of Irving characters that we love so much!
Now it’s time for some nonfiction. How about quantum physics?? Laszlo here I come! Stay tuned….