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In einer Person by John Irving

In einer Person (original 2012; edition 2012)

by John Irving

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1,248646,350 (3.6)74
Title:In einer Person
Authors:John Irving
Info:Diogenes Verlag AG (2012), Hardcover
Collections:Belletristik, Your library
Tags:Homosexualität Schriftsteller

Work details

In One Person by John Irving (2012)

  1. 00
    Tomboy. by Thomas Meinecke (JuliaMaria)
    JuliaMaria: In beiden Werken geht es um sexuelle Identität.
  2. 11
    Self by Yann Martel (LynnB)
    LynnB: Explores gender identity.

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English (52)  German (3)  Dutch (2)  Danish (1)  French (1)  Norwegian (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (61)
Showing 1-5 of 52 (next | show all)
Throughout college and for about a half-decade after, John Irving was my favorite author. I loved the way he took similar elements (wrestling, squash, New England, boarding schools, abortion, sexual diversity, shrill and prudish women) and reshuffled them into something full of new meaning. I loved A Prayer for Owen Meany and A Widow for One Year, and I enjoyed, to one degree or another, everything else of his I read (with the possible exception of The Water-Method Man, but we're all entitled to some misses).

Overall, In One Person does just what my favorite Irving novels do with the reshuffled elements and the new meaning. In addition, Irving tackles without flinching issues of sexuality and gender fluidity that have seemingly got our whole country shifting in their seats a little (or a lot) right now. And I really appreciate the look at what the AIDS epidemic was like in the 1980's. I was in elementary school when Ryan White was kicked out of school for being HIV positive and in college when the first anti-retrovirals were approved, but while AIDS was present and in the news for much of my youth, I had little to no experience with people living with the disease until I was an adult and public sentiment---and available treatments---had changed dramatically. This novel wasn't the first time I'd heard about what it was like on the inside of this epidemic, but it was a poignant telling. As usual, Irving doesn't pull any punches.

All of this I love, but I didn't quite love this novel as a whole. It took about 180 pages for the story to start moving, and when it did I thought, "There! There's the Irving that I know!" but even after that, it never quite reached the level of my favorite Irving novels.

The main problem I have is with the narrator. I don't dislike Bill/Billy/William as a person---he's actually a quite sympathetic character---but he is a clumsy narrator. Either Irving, for artistic reasons, is letting Bill do the narrating knowing he'll overuse italics and exclamation points and repeat words and phrases beyond the tolerance of the reader, or this is actually Irving's narrating voice and he's lost his edge or is just phoning it in these days. In a way, it doesn't really matter because I found the narration tedious regardless.

Beyond the head-on way Irving addresses gender identity, sexuality, and HIV/AIDS, I also appreciate the way he portrays the differences between generations. We see the progression in tolerance from the pre-World War II generation through to the Millennials, although I do sense a little Baby Boomer reticence about GenX. While Baby Boomers and Millennials get starring roles in Irving's world, GenX features hardly at all (by my count, just two characters who reach adulthood) and always as the pragmatists stuck in between a generation of navel-gazers and a generation of phone-gazers. That's not really Irving's fault, though; by underappreciating (or perhaps just misunderstanding) GenX, he's just reflecting reality. (Boo-hoo, I know.)

At any rate, aside from the sidelining of my generation, I like the way that Irving shows how tolerance grows gradually and in a nonlinear fashion as the paradigms of each generation shift. What was once unthinkable becomes not only possible but almost normal two generations down the line. Or in the case of Shakespeare and casting men in women's roles and vice versa, it goes more "acceptable, unacceptable, unacceptable but necessary, acceptable but edgy, acceptable." Or something like that. Nonlinear.

I also enjoy how disappointingly human Irving's characters are. With the possible exception of Miss Frost, there are no perfect characters. Everyone's just muddling along the way we all do. It's not always satisfying, but I wouldn't trust a novel in which it was any other way. ( )
1 vote ImperfectCJ | Aug 31, 2016 |
DNF @ 36%

I have decided to move on from this one. There is just nothing in this story that keeps me interested, and that is a huge shame because the premise of the book - a coming of age story of a young guy who discovers he is not fitting in with the people around him because of his outlook on life and his sexuality - sounded somewhat intriguing.

I have no idea what to expect, but after just over a third in the book, I just cannot buy into the story or the characters. This is meant to be a tragic comedy, but so far the comedy has escaped me. It does not help that much of the book reminds me of Catcher in the Rye and its protagonist. I could not stand Holden Caulfield. There, I said it. So, having another story centre on a character that seems much like Holden will not work in the book's favour. Not for me, anyway.

What's more, none of the other characters seem to be fleshed out (except for old Henry) and so far the construct of personalities that are mostly made up of social stereotypes is just leaving me comparing the book to a number of other books which I would rather be reading.
I take this as a sure sign that it is time to move on.

Next! ( )
  BrokenTune | Aug 21, 2016 |

Miss Frost lives as a woman though she has a penis and breasts. She is sexually and romantically attracted to men but does not have a lover. In a world in which almost everybody is either hiding or unaware of his sexual eccentricities, Miss Frost is confident and stable as herself. Billy says of her: “At the time, Miss Frost struck me as the most genuine person I knew.”

In boarding school Billy has a friend named Elaine who will stay his friend his whole life. Billy and Elaine share a crush on Jacques Kittredge who is the quintessential jock-bully. (In the ultimate moment of poetic justice, Kittredge grows up and has sex-change surgery). Kittredge gets Elaine pregnant and harasses Billy about being effeminate.

During this period, Billy has intercrural (between thighs) sex with Miss Frost. Just before Billy graduates Miss Frost reveals that she earlier attended the same high school under the name Albert Frost, or Big Al, one of the best wrestlers the school ever had. Though they only spend a couple of nights together and Miss Frost never explicitly reciprocates the emotion, Billy will love Miss Frost with the most romantic fervor of anyone in his life.

After high school Billy spends the summer in Europe with his first boyfriend, Tom Atkins, but the two are not meant for one another, and they drift apart. Billy moves to New York City to study German before spending a year in Vienna at the Insitut Für Europӓische Studien. In Vienna he hooks up with his first girlfriend, Esmeralda, an American and an aspiring opera singer, and Lawrence Upton, a lover and one of his lifelong friends. Larry is a poet who teaches at the institute. Like the Shakespearean director, Richard, Larry is one of the novel’s commentators, a voice of literary evaluation or criticism. Both play a paternal part in Billy’s life though, in Larry’s case, only after he and Billy are no longer lovers.

After college, Billy moves to L.A. with a woman, breaks up and moves back to New York to be with Elaine and Larry who are both living in the city. His mother and aunt die in a car accident, and Elaine and Billy return to their hometown of Second Sister, Vermont, for the funeral where Billy’s uncle, who is terribly intoxicated, lets slip that Billy’s father is living in Spain. (Ironically, the father and his lover seem to have the most stable romantic relationship in the novel.)

Tom Atkins, the young man with whom Billy traveled in Europe after high school, ends up married with children. But like many of the characters in the novel, Atkins has kept his homosexuality a secret and contracts AIDS during an affair. Larry’s lover dies of AIDS in his arms. Billy’s Grandpa Harry shoots himself in the bathtub. (Grandpa Harry is a wonderful character. He participates in many of the local plays and almost always takes the role of a woman. It’s unclear if Grandpa Harry is gay, but it’s probable that he is just a straight man who likes to dress in women’s clothing. He is among the kindest and sweetest people Billy knows.) Larry eventually dies cradled in Elaine’s and Billy’s arms. Miss Frost is beaten to death by a group of rowdy sailors at a bar — but not before sending several of them to the hospital. Kittredge dies of natural causes at fifty-four, but, as Billy says, “What ‘natural causes’ can kill you when you’re fifty-four?.”

Billy moves back to Second Sister and into the house he grew up in. He becomes a teacher at the high school where he went as a boy. It is now co-ed and there is a large LGBT community. Billy’s books are all about sexual identity and confusion, and he begins to mentor a young student who is a boy becoming a girl. Billy assumes the role of teaching and directing Shakespeare. The book ends when Kittredge’s son comes to the school to confront Billy. The scene is slightly ridiculous but somehow apt. The boy accuses of Billy of contributing to his father’s gender issues by publicly trying to normalize alternate sexualities. More importantly, he tries to categorize Billy by calling him bisexual. Billy retorts by quoting Miss Frost and thus encases the novel in her morality. ( )
  bostonwendym | Jul 22, 2016 |
Wonderfully written, funny and moving. This is a really good read. ( )
  KarenDuff | Jun 1, 2016 |
Fantastic book. Definitely a must-read. I am so glad that some things don't change and I love Irving as much as I ever did. Now go, get the book. ( )
  ReneeMiller | Feb 25, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 52 (next | show all)
Den amerikanske forfatteren John Irving har latt seg inspirere av Henrik Ibsen i sin nyeste roman. Ibsen-diskusjonene er det beste ved boken, som ellers inneholder forutsigbare Irving-temaer som bryting, en forsvunnet far, uklare identiteter og ikke minst sex i de fleste konstellasjoner
added by annek49 | editNRK, Anne Cathrine Straume (Jun 18, 2012)
Jeg må tilstå med det samme: Jeg er blodfan av John Irving. Han forteller historier uten like, og i I en og samme person er han umiskjennelig irvingsk – tematikken er ikke ukjent for Irving-lesere, og hovedpersonen har som ofte før flere likhetstrekk med forfatteren. Denne romanen er både deilig, smertefull og underholdende å oppholde seg i. Typisk nok varer oppholdet i hundrevis av sider, litt over fem hundre
Irving likes to track his characters over long stretches of time. “In One Person” begins in the mid-1950s, when Billy is 13, and shadows him until he is in his late 60s, in 2010. As a work of fiction, it is true to the way we recall our lives rather than the way we actually live them; we live in linear time — we have no choice — but the curve of our memory is never a straight line. Happenings that lasted an hour can obsess us for years. Years of our lives can be forgotten.

» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Irvingprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hoekmeijer, NicoletteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Thus play I in one person many people, and none contented.
William Shakespeare, Richard II
For Sheila Heffernon and David Rowland and in memory of Tony Richardson
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I'm going to begin by telling you about Miss Frost.
My dear boy, please don't put a label on me -- don't make me a category before you get to know me!
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The author's most political novel since The Cider House Rules and A Prayer for Owen Meany, this novel is an intimate and unforgettable portrait of the solitariness of a bisexual man who is dedicated to making himself "worthwhile."

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