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The Inner Circle [Kindle Edition]

T.C. Boyle
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $10.99
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Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Historical Fiction
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Book Description

Fresh on the heels of his New York Times bestselling and National Book Award-nominated novel, Drop City, T.C. Boyle has spun an even more dazzling tale that will delight both his longtime devotees and a legion of new fans. Boyle’s tenth novel, The Inner Circle has it all: fabulous characters, a rollicking plot, and more sex than pioneering researcher Dr. Alfred Kinsey ever dreamed of documenting . . . well, almost.

A love story, The Inner Circle is narrated by John Milk, a virginal young man who in 1940 accepts a job as an assistant to Dr. Alfred Kinsey, an extraordinarily charming professor of zoology at Indiana University who has just discovered hislife’s true calling: sex. As a member of Kinsey’s “inner circle” of researchers, Milk (and his beautiful new wife) is called on to participate in sexual experiments that become increasingly uninhibited—and problematic for his marriage. For in his later years Kinsey (who behind closed doors is a sexual enthusiast of the first order) ever more recklessly pushed the boundaries both personally and professionally.

While Boyle doesn’t resist making the most of this delicious material, The Inner Circle is at heart a very moving and very loving look at sex, marriage, and jealousy that will have readers everywhere reassessing their own relationships—because, in the end, “love is all there is.”

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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. The irony and the drama of this mesmerizing novel lie in Milk's unquestioning acceptance of his idol's demands, and the gradual moral corruption that ensues from such occupational obligations as serving as Kinsey's partner in homosexual sex while also bedding Prok's compliant wife and eventually offering his own wife in group sex activities. Boyle's narrative brio accelerates as other members of the inner circle and their wives respond to Kinsey's manipulative charisma, while the professor's increasingly uninhibited and egotistical demands test the bonds of marital fidelity. If Milk's unwavering idealism begins to seem unlikely and his recognition of the spiritual emptiness of mechanistic sex and the damage to his marriage is a little late in coming, Boyle nonetheless maintains his mix of irony and emotional fidelity with buoyant wit. In the end, the novel can be read as a case study of the price paid by ordinary human beings when they become the apostles to men of genius.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Following his spirited counterculture drama Drop City (2003), Boyle fictionalizes a historical figure as he did in The Road to Wellville (1994), an unforgettable portrait of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, this time presenting an intrepid and astute interpretation of the revolutionary work and fanatic personality of sex researcher Dr. Alfred Kinsey. A zoologist at Indiana University called Prok by his intimates, he is seen through the worshipful eyes of John Milk, a handsome, obedient, and clueless English major who becomes Prok's first disciple. Milk joins Prok in his prodigious effort to interview thousands of men and women about their sexual experiences as World War II rages, and Milk is both dedicated to the project and conflicted over Prok's attempt to control every aspect of his life, not to mention his insistence on their having sex. Milk is a meticulous and moody narrator, and Boyle has never written more ravishing and poignant descriptions than those depicting Milk's inner turmoil as reflected in Indiana's extreme weather and the tawdry settings in which they conduct their tricky research, which, as Prok becomes famous, grows increasingly voyeuristic and exhibitionistic. Adamantly clinical, Prok dismisses all sexually related emotions as products of uptight social conventions, but as Milk and his wife, Iris, the novel's moral compass, discover, there's no divorcing feelings from sexuality. Boyle's vision of Kinsey as both genius and cult leader is mesmerizing and chilling as he discerningly explores the consequences of a mechanistic view of humanity, and of signing one's life, and conscience, over to a zealot. Strong medicine from a phenomenally artistic, morally inquisitive, and unfailingly compassionate writer. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 1052 KB
  • Print Length: 429 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (August 30, 2005)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006UCVH72
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #434,271 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
59 of 65 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read, but ultimately it falls a little flat November 4, 2004
I look forward to each new novel by T.C. Boyle with great anticipation; he's a gadfly, an iconoclast who can weave a fascinating web of words filled with twists and turns and verbal pyrotechnics. He can be impishly cynical toward social idealism of all types, as clearly expressed in *The Tortilla Curtain* and *Drop City*, but he also can show a softer, more sympathetic side, as demonstrated in what I consider his finest novel overall, *Riven Rock*.

As always, Boyle has created a novel that's at the very least, a good read. I devoured this book, cover to cover, almost without stopping, which is a testament to Boyle's ability to write lucid, entertaining prose. There is a noticeably a less manic feel to his writing this time around, however, and it's unclear to me whether this was a deliberate strategy, based on the sensitive nature of his subject matter, or whether instead Boyle found his inspiration just a bit lacking.

The fact that *The Inner Circle* deals with Alfred Kinsey and his pioneering work on sex research certainly makes the novel all the more alluring and addictive, I confess. Assuming that Boyle has taken only minor liberties with the actual historical characters of Kinsey and his wife Clara, the book illuminates in excellent fashion the motives, mindset, and methods behind Kinsey's single-minded pursuit of his research. Boyle does (apparently) a fine job of depicting the character and personality of Kinsey, albeit from the virtually uncritical perspective of his narrator, the mild-mannered fictional research assistant, John Milk.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A great idea for a book, but not fully realized. October 10, 2004
I bought this book the day it came out, both because I had liked "Drop City" so well, and because, hey, a book about Kinsey and sex has to be somewhat interesting. I came away a bit disappointed. This book lacked a real focus. There were moments where this book seemed to make sense and actually managed to be enjoyable, but must of the time, it was rather cold and unlikable.

The character of Kinsey himself ("Prok") was far too flat. It was not clear to me what it was about him that drew his followers so deeply into his inner circle. For the same reasons, I disliked the protagonist, John Milk. Why he followed Kinsey so blindly at the expense of his marriage and happiness is a mystery. The book followed him through his emotional turmoil in a cyclical fashion, with the plot rehashing itself repeatedly with no growth on the part of any characters, with the exception perhaps of Iris, Milk's wife. But Boyle leaves her in the background, definitely a shame.

The plot of this book had promise. Kinsey was a fascinating man, and he conducted fascinating research. But Boyle describes the research and the accompanying sexual exploits in either an illusory manner (when it is homosexual sex being discussed, or 'H-behavior') or in a way that is far too medical and sterile to be anything but uncomfortable and boring.

Overall, I didn't dislike this book, I just kind of felt like I was reading to finish, instead of for the joy of the book. It's not a bad book, it's just nota very good one. Read "Drop City" instead to see what Boyle is really capable of.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 1+1=3 May 11, 2005
Having seen the film, "Kinsey" before I began to read T.C. Boyle's "The Inner Circle" really helped me to fill in the visual component of Boyle's always fat and juicy prose.
Using the docu-fiction form, Boyle riffs on certain known facts of Kinsey's time at IU, his groundbreaking research and uses John Milk as his vehicle into that particular world that Kinsey created during his tenure at Indiana University as a professor of Biology and more importantly as a sex researcher and author.
Boyle writes of Milk's entrance into Kinsey-land: "That was the moment it all began, though I didn't realize it at the could I? How could I have foreseen that a shallow, manipulative girl I hardly knew would be the motive force that was to lead me to Prok (Kinsey) and Mac (Kinsey's wife), Corcoran, Rutledge, to the desk at which I am now sitting..."
Boyle paints Kinsey as a kind of Machiavellian, all-knowing leader of his group of researchers and their families: "What he (Kinsey) wanted above all else was to gain the sort of intimacy that yields up confidences, and he had a true genius for it---for putting people at ease and bringing them out. Absent it, the project would have never gotten off the ground."
Kinsey is a warm, loving person who, as long as you do as he advises, would do anything for you. When Milk's wife, Iris has an affair with another researcher ("I knew why she'd done what she had...she'd had one man in her life, just one and I'd had Mac and Prok...") Kinsey at first is happy that she has acted out her fantasy. But when Iris decides to leave Milk and live with her lover, John... Kinsey intercedes and the whole situation is diffused.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Such an Excellent Writer
I hadn't read a book by Boyle for years( the last one I read was East by East) but I always thought that his Road to Wellville was one of the most entertaining books I have ever... Read more
Published 1 month ago by ADE/29
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Fun read.
Published 2 months ago by Nancy E. Olson
4.0 out of 5 stars Well-drawn characters, but no one I'd want to know
This is a fictionalised account by one of Professor Kinsey’s protégés and is so engrossing it’s difficult to keep in mind that on the whole it actually happened. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Victoria Craven
5.0 out of 5 stars fabulous story
A really interesting story that, like Boyle's other books, has helped me learn something about historical figures and events while also providing a good laugh and a little sadness.
Published 5 months ago by Vegigirl
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
A good read though not as poignant powerful as the Tortilla Curtain.
Published 7 months ago by Buffalo Bill
3.0 out of 5 stars Flawed docufiction
This is a "docufiction" or "docudrama" sort of book. It tells the story of Kinsey's sex research in the 1950s from the perspective of one of his acolytes. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Kindle fan
2.0 out of 5 stars Boyle is a genius of a writer, but The Inner Circle is far from his...
TC Boyle is one of my favorite authors, but I have to say…this was not my favorite of his books. The topic was interesting, based on the true story of the Dr. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Jesi Lea Ryan
4.0 out of 5 stars More informational than literary
I hope his details about Kinsey and their work are generally accurate because I found the book very interesting in that regard. The storyline is good but slow-moving. Read more
Published 14 months ago by T. Carlson
4.0 out of 5 stars The weak and the weird
This book caused more mixed feelings than any that I have read in quite a while. I picked up the book because it was a TC Boyle book without any idea that it was about Dr. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Mary Reinert
4.0 out of 5 stars Love Boyle 's work
Always want the "real" story after reading TC Boyle. Great sense of character and stunning ability to bring to life historical figures. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Amazon Customer
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More About the Author

T. C. Boyle is the author of eleven novels, including World's End (winner of the PEN/FaulknerAward), Drop City (a New York Times bestseller and finalist for the National Book Award), and The Inner Circle. His most recent story collections are Tooth and Claw and The Human Fly and Other Stories.

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