The Inner Circle

Written with great narrative skill, this biographical novel focuses on Dr. Alfred Kinsey, a charismatic, sexually obsessed zoologist who entered history and infamy when he switched the focus of his research from the reproductive cycle of gall wasps to the sexual physiology of ‘the human animal” in about 1940. As his first-person narrator, author T. C. Boyle has created John Milk, an undergraduate student who becomes the first of Kinsey’s inner circle of acolytes and assistants. Kinsey is portrayed as a nearly messianic figure through the loving eyes of Milk, but it is the character study of the narrator and the peripheral characters that makes this novel worth reading. Milk’s journey of self- and sexual discovery explores the human condition, but Boyle places the dramatic emphasis on how clinical objectification of sexuality divorced from the scientifically indefinable concept of human love leads only to the accumulation of knowledge, with no corresponding increase of wisdom.