View Single Post
Old 04-19-2011, 05:46 PM
BlackUnicorn's Avatar
BlackUnicorn BlackUnicorn is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 906

Originally Posted by MrFarFromRight View Post
I’ve been thinking about this [polyamory or poly-friendly in the books of John Irving] for a few days (since reading your comment) and frankly I’m rather doubtful. I’m a fan of Irving’s, I read as many of his books as I can get my hands on (most of them more than once) and there’s only one I didn’t like (in fact, I thought it stank!) – his first novel entitled “Setting Free The Bears”.
I didn't like it either. The swinger novella is called The 158-Pound Marriage and has been published in his Three Complete Novels collection alongside the SFtB.

Originally Posted by MrFarFromRight View Post
In “The Cider House Rules” – which you mention – two of the main characters start a relationship after they believe that her fiancé is dead. She gets pregnant and when the fiancé turns up alive (but in a wheelchair) the other two feel guilty about their relationship and end it. They pretend that their child is adopted. (Which gentle, protective lie the fiancé – later husband – sees through... and implicitly forgives. He’s a nice guy – which is one of the reasons that the other two feel so guilty about their “cheating”.)
Yep, poly-friendly or poly-sympathetic would describe Cider House better. As I read it, these two have a love relationship that begins before and lasts beyond the sexual aspect of it while the woman continues to love her husband, so I was thinking polyamory more as an orientation than as an actual practice.

Originally Posted by MrFarFromRight View Post
I only read “The Hotel New Hampshire” – which you give as an example - one time (I’d like to read it again), many years ago, at a time when I wasn’t looking for examples of polyamory in literature, so I can’t be sure of that one.
Again, I love it how this book emphasizes how you can have multiple loving connections that (might) have a sexual aspect that is sort of secondary. The main character and his sister share a female partner who begins with sis and ends up with the bro, and the two bring up the child that is biologically his sister's and her new old boyfriend's. So there is a definite poly family feel to it, although the sexual connections don't happen simultaneously.

So yes, poly-sympathetic rather than actually about polyamory in practice. Silly enough but I feel that both HNH and CHR are such excellent pieces of literature that I don't want to read anything else by Irving for the fear of it being less than what I expected. I did enjoy the World According to Garp and found the early three novels interesting, but haven't had the nerve to read anything written after Cider House Rules.

Originally Posted by MrFarFromRight View Post
But again, haven’t got my hands on as much as I’d like. Which novels are set on the planet O?
Sorry, short-stories. The two I have read can be found in the short-story collection Birthday of the World. I'm quoting her from the foreword to the collection;

"In the title story of the collection A Fisherman of the Inland Sea, I invented some social rules for the people of the world called O, which is quite near Hain, as worlds go. The world, as usual, seemed to be something I just found myself on and had to explore; but I did spend genuine thought, respectable, systematic thought, on the marriage and kinship customs of the people of O. I drew charts, with male and female symbols, and lines with arrows, very scientific. I needed those charts. I kept getting confused. The blessed editor of the magazine in which the story first appeared saved me from a horrible blunder, worse than incest. I had gotten my moieties mixed up. She caught it, we fixed it.

Since it took a while to work out these complexities, it may be mere conservation of energy that has brought me back twice to O; but I think it's because I like it. I like thinking about marrying three other people only two of whom you can have sex with (one of each gender but both of the other moiety). I like thinking about complex social relationships which both produce and frustrate highly charged emotional relationships.

In this sense, you could say that "Unchosen Love" and "Mountain Ways" are comedies of manners, odd as that may sound to those who think science fiction is written ray-gun in hand. The society of O is different from ours here now, but not very much more different than that of Jane Austen's England; perhaps less different than that of The Tale of Genji."

(The title novella of The Birthday of the World is magnificent too, and also features a society where non-monogamy is the norm.)
Me: bi female in my twenties
Dating: Moonlightrunner
Metamour: Windflower
Reply With Quote