The Inner Circle
12 journalers for this copy...
Fascinating reading about Kinsey and his sex research. Although I don't think this is Boyle's best work, I still enjoyed the interactions between Kinsey and his assistant, John Milk. Would recommend.
Released in the late 1940s and early '50s, the Kinsey Reports, the compilations of a scientific study that attempted to quantify male and female sexual behavior, shocked Americans with revelations about their sexuality. Indiana University professor Alfred Kinsey's obsessive belief that the human need for sex is little different from animal instinct, and his iconoclastic research methods (including voyeurism and personal interactions), make Kinsey (called "Prok" by students and intimates) a fitting subject for Boyle's (Drop City) irrepressible imagination. In this provocative fictional reconstruction of Kinsey's influence on sexual and societal mores, Boyle's narrator is John Milk, a naïve undergraduate at IU when he becomes Prok' s assistant, the first of the eventual "inner circle" of dedicated disciples....
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On its way to kizmiaz in Portugal to start this bookray. Enjoy!
I still have a couple of books on the go but this shouldn't take long.
The research for this novel was certainly well done and the mental picture we get of prok is so lifelike and honest that it leaves its mark on the readers, what a hurricane of will.
A tight plot with various interesting characters and a lot of food for thought, but none of this is new for readers of Boyle’s works.
The human sexuality, its taboos and the ever present religious repression are a subject that can’t fail to grab any sort of reader from whichever gender and the way they are presented here really makes one think about it all the more.
Milk is a common enough person and his fears and jealousy are very close to a lot of us, even in this dawning of the 21st century. Would I feel ok about knowing my wife had sex with a colleague of mine, even knowing that sex is nothing but an animal function and bears little relation with love? I don’t know, I really don’t. How would you feel if you were in Milk’s shoes or in Iris’s for that matter? And how would you rate on the 0-6 Scale?
I loved reading it and would like to recommend it to anyone no matter what sort of books you like.
With perryfran's permission I'll pass this book on to my wife before sending it to the next participant, it won't take long.
Oct. 5th - My wife loved it. The next in line is on vacation until the 16th of Oct., when I get her address I'll put it in the mail.
Here, the research looks like some kind of a sect. Prok as a guru and Milk as a disciple. For me, Prok's inner circle has more than one common point with sects and religious integrist persons - how anticlerical the inner circle may be. For example, they had the same dilemna as catholicist priests faced to confession. And religion (or sex research in this case) appears to be above all other laws.
It also questions how far a researcher can go without breaking ethic. I agree with the overall message given by the Kinsey reports. At the time, there really was a need for such a study, and I respect Prok's research project. But what about some of the methods employed during the study? And what about Kinsey's intimate convictions? He claims he always remains objective, but in his private life, doesn't he praise free sex and condemn sex shy persons? That doesn't seem so very objective and scientific to me. But of course, nobody is.
Maybe I was especially sensitive to these aspects of the book since I have been myself a researcher during five years (but I worked with funghi - not with human animals!). As a matter of fact, I did encounter some self-centered professors desperately needing admiration and power, and not accepting that their co-workers were human beings that may have their own will and point of view. At a much lesser extend than Prok, though.
I must confess that after having read the two or three first chapters, I thought that I would'nt really like the book. But in fact, I loved it (but not as much as T.C. Boyle's wonderful "Water music").
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Thanks for sharing perryfran and thanks for sending it to me Kundri
Even though the description of Prok's domination over Milk is interesting, I think the story gets a bit boring at a certain point as it keeps repeating it self. They go on a trip, they come home, they go on another trip ect. I would have liked to see the story evolve more which of course is difficult as it has to stick to the facts but nonetheless some completly unexpected event would have made this book more interesting.
I already got the address of the next reader but as we are nearing Christmas and as there is civil unrest in Athens where the book is going, I won't post it until the beginning of the new year. - I hope that this is okay with you, perryfran.
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On its way to its next reader
The first BC book to arrive at my p.o.box in 2009! Thanks perryfran for including me in the bookray, and DitteL for posting the book to me.
Compared to Boyle's other works, this is a straightforward and simplified narrative. That's because it's in the first person voice, and the 'voice' is that of John Milk, speaking into a recording device after having imbibed several Zombie cocktails before heading out to Professor Kinsey's funeral.
It doesn't take long to understand that Milk is a too-loyal disciple, eager to be accepted by the dominant father figure of Professor Kinsey, and unable to speak out when his "moral" instincts indicate that he should resist Prok's "scientific" agenda. Therefore the limitations regarding the scope of the story can be attributed to the protagonist's all-too-human shortcomings. Endearing to the reader Milk may be, but his point of view limits the depth of the narrative, and there are moments when it reads more like a domestic drama than anything else.
And yet, Boyle's verve and love of language manifests itself from time to time. There are certain moments when the choice of words is clearly the mark of the author's style rather than the character's: "the susurrus of bare feet in the grass", "horripilated flesh", "a great and vast soughing of bench, chair, muscle and sinew", "moths threw themselves at the screen in soft, anthropodal explosions", etc. Phrases like these are what makes T.C. Boyle exceptional as a writer, but in this novel, it's a stretch of the imagination to accept that they originated from Milk.
This criticism aside, The Inner Circle is an engaging novel. Yes John Milk displays weak judgement (following his urges/instincts rather than his mind a few times too many) but that's what makes his story interesting and worthwhile. He does appear submissive & easily manipulated, sexually, emotionally & professionally. Though I interpret his docility as a virtue, & given the connotations of his surname (earthy, pure, safe for children), I would place him along with Violet and Iris (the flowers-on-the-wall wives), and symbolically antithetical to Mac, Prok, Corcoran (these two names suggestive of the male appendage) & Rutledge (the first syllable referring to the male animal during mating season).
I considered for a moment that Boyle could have used Prok as the focus of the novel, made Prok the narrator, but as I read on I quickly disabused myself of this idea. It would have been a daunting enterprise for the writer, and no doubt I'm sure Boyle is one of the few who can (write the story from Prok's point of view), but as a reader I'm not sure I would want to know what "really" went on in Prok's mind and (non)emotional state!
I should be able to start this by the weekend.
This was my first Boyle book and I really enjoyed it. It's a very different and fascinating subject for a novel, with plenty of complex characters.
I'm mailing this to Jenkazoo today.
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I apologige for keeping this so long. I got a bot overloaded with boorays all at once.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. This was my first T. C. Boyle book and won't be my last. I think I may enjoys the others more since I felt a lot of pressure reading several books at once and I forced myself to skim the end rather than really enjoy it.
On its way to the next reader!
just read Boyle's "The Women" a few weeks ago and it inspired an additional side trip on last week's vacation - to see the 7-8 Frank Lloyd Wright designed and built structures at Florida Southern University in Lakeland FL. while the offices and buildings were mostly closed, the exterior of each was a joy to experience and most had windows that allowed you to view the interior spaces as well. we got a great joy out of the chapels which were open, and from the Waterdome which runs several times per day. this is a lovely collection of works and i was more than a little surprised to find that with such a treasure, this school does not offer studies or a degree of any type in architecture.
ok, enough of that bunny trail...off to finish my to do list so i can jump in and enjoy THIS TC Boyle goodie ASAP...more when it's been consumed.
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off to Bibliocrates in the mail
Anyway... I remember seeing previews for the HBO movie about Kinsey a while back and although I didn't watch it, it did look interesting, had never heard of him before that, but am looking forward to reading this book. Please bear with me, have had a lot on my plate lately. Plus, I -finally- got a job after looking for months! Thank you so much for posting tempestsans!
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This book is on its way to another judygreeneyes...
Update (March 7):
I just finished this book and it's ready to go travelling again.
This book was interesting from many perspectives. It was a fictionalized account of some very real people, Dr. Kinsey and his wife, but also created some fictional people who were Kinsey's inner circle, his research staff and their wives. These people must have existed, but I don't know if the fictional characters where meant in any way to represent the real ones.
It was also very interesting to learn more about this controversial research into human sexuality, which I remember hearing about as a child. Kinsey took a very professional and scientific approach to gathering all of this data about human sexual practices, but some of the stories about his personal life really rounded out the picture and were a little startling. He was not just a researcher, but also a truly free sexual being, without inhibitions, not "sex shy", as he would call it.
I was interested in the way they went about collecting data by interviewing tens of thousands of individuals. It's also quite telling how much more of a furor arose over the female volume than had over the male volume, as if women were not supposed to also be sexual beings. Quite a sign of the times.
For some reason it took me a while to get though this book. Not because it wasn't interesting, maybe because it was densely packed with information and maybe I was just too busy at work!! Anyway, I liked it quite a lot. I think T.C. Boyle, one of my favorites, was just the guy to write it.
Released this morning by mail to katrinat in the UK. Happy reading!
Here's the USPS Customs Declaration #: LC496289809US (don't know if it is useful for anything)
Thanks for sending
I don't know how his wife stayed with him, all of their wives actually!
Thanks for sharing.
I have the next address but will be keeping hold of the book for a few days until the flight restrictions have lifted here, I don't want it getting lost on its way to the last reader!
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