Billy, Don't Be a Hero

John Irving has never shied away from fun with gender roles for his characters, but in his latest novel, In One Person, he's created a doozy of a social misfit — and that's saying something for the man who wrote The World According to Garp and The Hotel New Hampshire. Irving's 13th novel chronicles the life of bisexual Billy Abbott, who reveals his predilection for "crushes on the wrong people." The title comes from Act 5, Scene 5 of Richard II — "Thus play I in one person many people,/And none contented" — and for this one Irving forgoes third person for the first time, which allows him to get into Billy's skin as he moves from boarding school (of course) and his sexual awakening into adulthood and the world of AIDS. Says Irving, "It's a story about how difficult it is to really truly be tolerant of everyone's sexual identity. It's not easy." The author discusses In One Person at Live Talks L.A.'s "An Evening With John Irving." Aero Theatre, 1328 Montana Ave., Santa Monica; Thurs., June 21, 8 p.m.; reception, 6:30-7:30 p.m.; $25; $45, includes book; $95 includes pre-event reception & book; livetalksla.org.
Thu., June 21, 8 p.m., 2012

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