In One Person by John Irving - review by Sam Kitchener

Sam Kitchener

Queer Theorising

In One Person


Doubleday 427pp £18.99

There is only so much anal sex a man can take. Likewise, areolae, penis inclines, vaginas, and intercrural frotting. I don’t mean to be a prude. Any subject is fair game for fiction; besides, John Irving’s In One Person shouldn’t trouble this publication’s Bad Sex Award. Although his interest in sexual organs is insistent, his treatment of what they’re used for is mercifully brief and, to borrow the apologia of genteel perverts everywhere, ‘tastefully done’:

I had never penetrated anyone, and when I felt this most amazing friction, of course, this felt like penetration to me. There was a slippery sensation – there was absolutely no pain, yet my penis had never been so tightly gripped – and when I ejaculated, I cried against her small, soft breasts.

Those subtle negatives, and diction just the right side of scientific precision, make this a tactful enough report of a first, nervous sexual encounter.

The real problem is that any novel which is too involved with a particular subject can become something of a bore. Of course, since most novels emerge

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