John Irving’s 13th novel, In One Person, which came out last week, gives us yet another classic Irving outsider—a fatherless boy prone to sexual mishaps—and a timely discussion of intolerance. Here are four things you should know before the author reads from his latest book at Town Hall on Thursday:
— John Irving is one of America’s great contemporary storytellers, and one of the last of his kind. He writes first drafts in longhand. He was in the room with Kurt Vonnegut when that little old “Dresden novel” was in the typewriter. The man is a modern legend.
—His readings, like his character-driven stories, are theatrical. Imagine a reading of A Prayer for Owen Meany. THAT WOULD BE A SIGHT TO BEHOLD. The author grips the lectern. His glasses pinch low on his nose. He locks eyes with the audience, barely glancing at the text as he “reads.” He knows the story so well it seems the book is for appearance’s sake.
—The term “sexual suspect.” It’s an Irvingism first used in The World According to Garp for someone who doesn’t fit neatly into the get-married-have-kids formula for a happy life. In In One Person, bisexual narrator Billy Abbott is another one of Irving’s sexual suspects, walking us through a lifetime of desire and discovery, starting with his early “crushes on the wrong people” (the school wrestling star, the transgender librarian Miss Frost).
—Irving’s book couldn’t come out at a better time. These days, while bullying is a top news topic (ahem, Mitt Romney) and everyone from President Obama to Governor Gregoire is taking a stand in favor of marriage equality, In One Person has become part of an important conversation concerning human rights. Irving’s reading is a chance for you to take part in it.
May 17 at 7, Town Hall, free, no tickets required