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The Boston Globe

Books

Book Review

‘In One Person’ by John Irving

“In One Person” has many of the things that one expects from a John Irving novel: It is set, mostly, in northern New England (in the fictional town of First Sister, Vt.); its protagonist is a novelist (as was true in 1978’s “The World According to Garp” — a book I loved, and the book “In One Person” most closely resembles in its themes, if not always in prose style). There are no bears, but there are wrestlers and a prep school. German is taught and spoken, and Austria is visited. There are big questions about the narrator and novelist Billy Abbot’s father, who has been more or less absent since Billy’s birth. There’s lots of sexual awakening and questioning and questing, lots of gender bending, lots of sex.

I know this list sounds dismissive, but I don’t mean it to be. Sometimes Irving seems haunted by his obsessions, and sometimes he seems merely fond of them, but in any case, they clearly matter to him. These obsessions might be familiar to devoted (or even casual) Irving readers, but that does not necessarily mean they are tired.

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