Brute Force…Humanism

In One Person

by John Irving
Simon and Schuster, 425 pp., $28.00

As a thought experiment, imagine a novel by an author you never heard of whose story comprises a coming-of-age tale in which the main character is educated in a Vermont prep school. Although his father may still be alive somewhere, the boy lives in the shadow of his handsome stepfather and his remote, disapproving mother. Various colorful relatives and townspeople circle in orbit around him. Fascinated by members of the school’s wrestling team, he later becomes a wrestler himself. In his adolescence the young man develops an interest in theater. He also discovers in himself a talent for writing.

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