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John Irving - in one personLes premières phrases

«  I’m going to begin by telling you about Miss Frost. While I say to everyone that I became a writer because I read a certain novel by Charles Dickens at the formative age of fifteen, the truth is I was younger than that when I first met Miss Frost and imagined having sex with her, and this moment of my sexual awakening also marked the fitful birth of my imagination. We are formed by what we desire. In less than a minute of excited, secretive longing, I desired to become a writer and to have sex with Miss Frost – not necessarily in that order. 

I met Miss Frost in a library. I like libraries, though I have difficulty pronouncing the word – both the plural and the singular. It seems there are certain words I have considerable trouble pronouncing: nouns, for the most part – people, places, and things that have caused me preternatural excitement, irresolvable conflict, or utter panic. Well, that is the opinion of various voice teachers and speech therapists and psychiatrists who’ve treated me – alas, without success. In elementary school, I was held back a grade due to ‘severe speech impairments’ – an overstatement. I’m now in my late sixties, almost seventy; I’ve ceased to be interested in the cause of my mispronunciations. (Not to put too fine a point on it, but fuck the etiology).

I don’t even try to say the etiology word, but I can manage to struggle through a comprehensible mispronunciation of library and libraries – the botched word emerging as an unknown fruit. (‘libery’, or ‘liberries’, I say – the way children do.)

It’s all the more ironic that my first library was undistinguished. This was the public library in the small town of First Sister, Vermont – a compact red-brick building on the same street where my grandparents lived. I lived in their house on River Street – until I was fifteen, when my mom remarried. My mother met my stepfather in a play. « 

Circonstances de lecture

Parce que j’aime beaucoup les romans de John Irving, notamment « Le Monde selon Garp ».


« In One Person » (« A moi seul bien des personnages ») retrace la vie de William Abbott, un bisexuel qui essaie de trouver sa place – et de se trouver lui-même – dans une société américaine pour le moins puritaine. Un grand roman sur la tolérance, l’identité sexuelle, la différence, le travestissement, mais aussi le théâtre de Shakespeare, les premiers émois amoureux, le rôle de l’écrivain et de la lecture, sans oublier de très beaux (et durs) passages sur le sida.

Dans ce roman, John Irving révèle beaucoup de lui-même. Un grand roman prônant la tolérance et la différence.

Un passage parmi d’autres

 « But why doesn’t Bill choose what books he likes for himself? » Richard Abbott asked my mother. « Bill, you’re thirteen, right? What are you interested in? »

Except for Grandpa Harry and my ever-friendly uncle Bob (the accused drinker), no one has asked me this question before. All I liked to read were the plays that were in rehearsal at the First Sister Players; I imagined that I could learn these scripts as word-for-word as my mother always learned them. One day, if my mom were sick, or in an automobile accident – there were car crashes galore in Vermont – I imagined I might be able to replace her as the prompter.

« Billy! » my mother said, laughing in that seemingly innocent way she had. « Tell Richard what you’re interested in. »

« I’m interested in me, » I said. « What books are there about someone like me? » I asked Richard Abbott.

« Oh, you would be surprised, Bill, » Richard told me. « The subject of childhood giving way to early adolescence – well, there are many marvelous novels that have explored this pivotal coming-of-age territory! Come on – let’s go have a look. »

« At this hour? Have a look where? » my grandmother said with alarm. This was after an early school-night supper – it was not quite dark outside, but it soon would be. We were all sitting at the dining-room table.

« Surely Richard can take Bill to our town’s little library, Vicky, » Grandpa Harry said. Nana looked as if she’d been slapped; she was so very much a Victoria (if only in our own mind) that no one but my grandpa ever called her « Vicky », and when he did, she reacted with resentment every time. « I’m bettin’ that Miss Frost keeps the library open till nine most nights, » Harry added.

« Miss Frost! » my grandmother declared, with evident distate.

« Now, now – tolerance, Vicky, tolerance, » my grandfather said.

« Come on, » Richard Abbott said again to me. « Let’s go get you your own library card – that’s a start. The books will come later; if I had a guess, the books will soon flow. »

« Flow! » my mom cried happily, but with no small measure of disbelief. « You don’t know Billy, Richard – he’s just not much of a reader. »

« We’ll see, Jewel, » Richard said to her, but he winked at me. I had a growingly incurable crush on him; if my mother was already falling in love with Richard Abbott, she wasn’t alone.

In One Person – John Irving – 2012 (Black Swan)