Thursday, February 02, 2012


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The Inner Circle, T C Boyle, Viking, 2004, 418 pp

This is one sexy novel!! Be advised that you may feel aroused while reading it and chronically horny in between the hours spent reading. It is a fictional account of the years leading up to and immediately following the publication of Sexual Behavior in the Human Male by Dr Alfred Kinsey in 1948.

I don't think many people heard the term "open marriage" until the 1970s. In fact, American views on sexuality remained conservative, Puritan and repressive until the "sexual revolution" and "free love" became buzz words as well as an open practice in the 1960s. Alfred Kinsey however, showed that sex before marriage, masturbation, and homosexuality were common practices in the 1930s and 1940s. Such things were never mentioned back then. Churches, mothers, and educators preserved a morality that was proven false by the publication of Kinsey's book, for which he gained wild popularity and of course major moral backlash. His book was a top ten non-fiction bestseller in 1948.

Boyle chose to tell the story through the first person viewpoint of John Milk, a fictional character who serves as Kinsey's first research assistant. Mike is a socially inept nerd, but the set up is brilliant. T C Boyle proves all of Kinsey's research to be truthful by showing us that a socially inept nerd is as horny and open to sexual adventure as any male.

He goes further though in making Milk a besotted, devoted follower of Kinsey, willing to do anything to help the research, even when it involves Kinsey's wife, Milk's wife, and his fellow researchers. Kinsey puts himself and those researchers through a grueling pace over many years as they travel around the United States taking the sexual histories of hundreds of men. The researchers are required never to exhibit being "sex shy". Kinsey himself is a tireless sexual enthusiast, at least as he is portrayed in The Inner Circle, his research lining up exactly with his natural proclivities.

Despite Kinsey's insistence on scientific objectivity and severe statistical methodology, I was left wondering if the "research" was not a tad slanted. But having been raised under the iron hand of the moralist mainstream Christian views on sex, then living the free love life in the 60s, and trying out the open marriage thing in the 70s to equivocal results, I am of the opinion that Alfred Kinsey did us all a favor. I think T C Boyle showed that it takes a slightly wacked guy to break through centuries of repression.

(The Inner Circle is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore. To find it at your nearest indie bookstore, click on the cover image above.)

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