Monday, November 15, 2004

One of the reasons why I'm behind on my novel is The Inner Circle by T. C. Boyle. This is a fictional account of Dr. Kinsey and his "inner circle" of researchers and their wives as they sought to complete his massive survey of sexual behavior in the 1940s and 50s. From what I've read of Boyle, a favorite theme of his is that of the eccentric, charismatic genius who has the unquestioning loyalty of a group of true believers. This is certainly the case with this book, as Kinsey seems to have an almost hypnotic power over the narrator and the others of the inner circle. The narrator struggles with what Kinsey teaches and how short he falls of what Kinsey views as the ideal state of human sexuality. Boyle sets up an interesting juxtaposition that serves as a critique of Kinsey's ideas about sex - the narrator and his wife are unable to separate emotion and love from sex and trying to follow Kinsey's philosophy nearly tears apart their marriage.

I thought the climax (no pun intended) was too long in coming (oh geez), and I'm not entirely sure if I'd say I liked the book. It was definitely interesting and the details of Kinsey's life were quite eye-opening, but my ideas of sex are too wrapped up in religion and emotion for me to view it with anything other than a skeptic's eye. I recognize the good that he brought about and the need for his research, and I don't buy the arguments from the more fanatical conservatives that all the evils of the modern world can be laid at his feet, but I think he went overboard in insisting that emotion can and should be removed from sex and that the two have nothing to do with each other. That I'm not so sure about.

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