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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 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 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.


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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. It comes late in his career, but it is what it is.

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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.


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  5. 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.


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    7. 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. View all 52 comments. May 12, Gary the Bookworm rated it liked it. John Irving is a unique force in contemporary fiction.

      He can be a brave and bold voice for fairness and common sense.

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      The complexity of his plots is matched by the quirkiness of his characters. Sexual identity, with all its twists and permutations, would seem like a perfect fit for the Irving treatment. Sadly, it is not.

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      This story is narrated by Bill Abbott, an impressionable adolescent who is struggling with his bisexuality at a repressive boarding school in the waning days of the 's. He John Irving is a unique force in contemporary fiction. He comes under the influence of a transsexual librarian with a big heart who provides him with a relevant reading list and his first sexual experience.

      He embarks on a transcontinental sexual odyssey, occasionally returning to Vermont to bury another of his colorful relatives. One problem is that Bill and his amazing coterie of misfits and malcontents never come alive as characters.

      They seem to function primarily as agents to further Irving's political agenda. Even if you agree with his premise, that sexual expression is a personal choice which should be guaranteed to all, it is difficult to overlook his awkward prose and mind-numbing repetition. I found the whole thing tiresome. Even the plot, with it's Dickensian twists and coincidences, grated on me. I found myself skimming the last few pages because I just wanted it to end.

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      This was a big disappointment. View all 33 comments. May 06, Trish marked it as put-aside Shelves: fiction.

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      Got to page and it was a struggle. John Irving is a fine writer, but like many men his age, John Updike among them, he goes into his later years with one foot in the grave and one hand on his genitals. I never read so much about breasts and penises in one place without anyone having actual sex. This is fair: he's the author and he can do what he wants. But I'm getting too old for this. View all 16 comments. Jul 03, Melissa rated it it was ok.

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      As a graduate student I had a great interest in gender studies; I thought that domain was where both the most interesting fiction and scholarship was happening. Unfortunately while reading this novel, it seemed like it was intended a be political statement on gender studies filled with maxims about sexual difference.

      The actual story was meandering and flat; it needed to be about pages shorter. It should not take a novel pages to become compelling. I kept going because I knew Irving had As a graduate student I had a great interest in gender studies; I thought that domain was where both the most interesting fiction and scholarship was happening. I kept going because I knew Irving had something to say; I just wish he had more of a story. View 1 comment.

      May 24, Jennifer rated it really liked it Recommends it for: petra, cait. Shelves: books , owned. View all 8 comments. Jan 13, Jonathan rated it it was amazing. I am the editor and publisher of this novel. Here's what I think about it: We use the word "great' so often that we've degraded its meaning. Great haircut! Great idea! Great casserole! So what can I say, without committing sins of hyperbole, about an author who truly does possess greatness? John Irving has long been a champion for sexual freedom. In this novel, his portrait of the life and loves of a bisexual man, and the mutability of gender and desire, will be a revelation for some and an affirmation for others.

      In his memoir, Richardson wrote this about John Irving's fiction: "He seems to me to be one of the most original and towering of contemporary writers. He is a born storyteller in the tradition of Fielding and Dickens, with, like them, an ability to see his characters from the outside I predict that John's courage and the range of his universe will still be durable when many of his more intellectually acclaimed rivals will have dwindled away.