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A Gay and Melancholy Sound (Nancy Pearl's Book Lust Rediscoveries) [Kindle Edition]

Merle Miller , Nancy Pearl
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The first book in nationally renowned librarian Nancy Pearl’s new Book Lust Rediscoveries series, this lost literary classic is available for the first time in decades. As funny and entertaining as it is captivating and heartrending, A Gay and Melancholy Sound is a shattering depiction of modern disconnection and the tragic consequences of a life bereft of love.

Joshua Bland has lived the kind of life many would define as extraordinary. Born in a small Iowa town to a controlling, delusional mother who had always wanted a daughter rather than a son, her anger at him colors his life. His father, a compassionate drinker incapable of dealing with Joshua’s mother, walks out on his wife and son, leaving a vacuum in the family that is damagingly filled by his tutor-cum-stepfather Petrarch Pavan, scion of a wealthy New York family who has secrets of his own. Playing on Joshua’s brilliance, Petrarch trains him to win a nationwide knowledge competition, but Joshua’s disappointing results in the finals are met with anger and disbelief by both his mother and stepfather. If Petrarch was unsuccessful in teaching Joshua the information he needed to win the contest, he had more success in instilling Joshua with the cynicism, self-doubt, and self-hatred that fill his own soul.

Enlisting in the army during World War II, he serves first as an infantryman, where his irreverent letters home turn him into a best-selling author. Then, as a paratrooper, he meets the physical challenges he thought were beyond his reach and helps free the concentration camps before being wounded as the Allied forces free Buchenwald. Back home after the war, he becomes a wildly successful producer—and all of this by the age of thirty-seven. But when his production company flounders amid critical and financial woes, the reality of who he is becomes perfectly, depressingly clear: he has had a lifetime of extraordinary experiences—and no emotional connection to any of it.

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Product Description

About the Author

Merle Miller was born on May 17, 1919 in Montour, Iowa, and grew up in Marshalltown, Iowa. He attended the University of Iowa and the London School of Economics. He joined the US. Army Air Corps during World War II, where he worked as an editor of Yank. His best-known books are his biographies of three presidents: Plain Speaking: An Oral History of Harry Truman, Lyndon: An Oral Biography, and Ike the Soldier: As They Knew Him. His novels include That Winter, The Sure Thing, Reunion, A Secret Understanding, A Gay and Melancholy Sound, What Happened, Island 49, and A Day in Late September. He also wrote We Dropped the A-Bomb, The Judges and the Judged, Only You, Dick Daring!, about his experiences writing a television pilot for CBS starring Barbara Stanwyck and Jackie Cooper, and On Being Different, an expansion of his 1971 article for the The New York Times Magazine entitled “What It Means to Be a Homosexual.” He died in 1986.

Nancy Pearl is a librarian and lifelong reader. She regularly comments on books on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition. Her books include 2003’s Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment and Reason, 2005’s More Book Lust: 1,000 New Reading Recommendations for Every Mood, Moment and Reason; Book Crush: For Kids and Teens: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Interest, published in 2007, and 2010’s Book Lust To Go: Recommended Reading for Travelers, Vagabonds, and Dreamers. Among her many awards and honors are the 2011 Librarian of the Year Award from Library Journal; the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association; the 2010 Margaret E. Monroe Award from the Reference and Users Services Association of the American Library Association; and the 2004 Women's National Book Association Award, given to "a living American woman who …has done meritorious work in the world of books beyond the duties or responsibilities of her profession or occupation."

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 862 KB
  • Print Length: 585 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1612182976
  • Publisher: AmazonEncore (3 April 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006VFZPK8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • : Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #161,958 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The meaning of insouciance? 6 May 2013
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I found myself overwhelmed by this book. It grabbed me on the first page and did not let go until the muddled sadness of the ending.
The story, told on tape by Joshua Bland, is the rambling but totally compelling autobiography of a rich man who has set the time and date of his suicide and spends his last days in his New England house, with little sleep and bolstered by pills, setting out the details of his extraordinary life.
His life contains many misfortunes, not least the fact that he was a child prodigy with an almost off the scale IQ, growing up in a small town in Iowa which regards him as a freak, with an unforgettable pushy mother and few friends. His childhood takes up a large section of the book, told admittedly while his mind is relatively clear, and it does much to explain the way his character and his life worked out.
He loathes himself, and he loathes almost everybody else, and admittedly there is much to loathe in most of the people he remembers, and he has over the years, deliberately, destroyed any chance of happiness he has had by reacting with deeds and words of wilful violence.
As reader, I found it impossible to hate or even dislike Joshua Bland and I ended up with a great deal of sympathy for him. His arrogance and his vulnerability are two sides of the same coin. Basically his instincts are good and though he ruins everything at every turn he knows it but is powerless to stop himself.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hate thy neighbour as thyself 24 Jun. 2012
By Alun Williams VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book has been republished, some fifty years after its first outing, because the editor of the "Book Lust" series, Nancy Pearl, has long loved it, and has apparently read it more than a dozen times. I did enjoy reading "A Gay and Melancholy Sound", but can't help feeling her devotion is a little unhealthy: the narrator of the book, Joshua Bland, is a confirmed misanthrope, whose dislike of the human race begins with himself, embraces most of his family, and extends to almost everyone he comes into contact with throughout his life. Although he has, it seems, many good qualities, most people who do encounter him end up being badly hurt by him.
I think that if I got to knew a man like Joshua I would end up avoiding him, probably after a quarrel in which I would tell him to stop feeling so sorry for himself and to pull himself together (never very helpful advice to give somebody I know, but Joshua would probably be a *very* annoying friend). Two things gave me the patience to keep on reading what is quite a long book at almost 550 pages: the black humour with which Joshua narrates his very unusual life, and the fact that Joshua does recognize goodness and love on the rare occasions he comes across them, and indeed writes quite perceptively about them.
This is an American novel, and though it has some very American characters - especially Joshua's pushy and self-deluding mother, who attempts to find fame and fortune by exploiting her son's exceptional intelligence, and Joshua's Jewish literary agent with his all-American family, yet in some ways it is very un-American: Joshua is unable to find any kind of redemption or happiness, despite a fair measure of material success: religion, sex, and psychoanalysis are all unavailing.
I imagine some readers will loathe this book: it is certainly well written and contains plenty to entertain the reader, but I think some will be unable to stomach Joshua's unremitting self-hatred.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The greatest thing about this book is its honesty. Well you would be honest if you were planning to kill yourself, wouldn't you? This book is a mature book full of insightful funny observations about human existence. The anti-hero Joshua Bland's emotions are rather bland. It is a difficult read but very rewarding. It needs to be analysed slowly and thoughtfully. Joshua is a child prodigy whose low self esteem stems from a lack of emotional intelligence. He doesn't mean to be indifferent but he can't help himself as it is his nature. If you have a generous nature and believe that everyone is fighting some sort of battle you will have empathy with the guy in this tough autobiographical story. Many of his actions are nasty and he doesn't even want forgiveness. He hasn't lived up to his potential. The background is WWII and the witch hunts of McCarthyism but this doesn't date it as it has the universal appeal of being about the nature of human love or the lack of it. As people grow older they realize that love may grow colder. It is a long book but well worth persevering with as it contains many nuggets of wisdom. It is not 'Mills and Boom' but rather it is an American anti-American rant against the human condition. Joshua has led a fascinating life and he has coped by having a great sense of the absurd. He is one of those dark clowns that looks dangerous but is a little pussy cat. He hurts people but don't we all? This is an honest and open account of a human being. It is funny and entertaining, so don't think it is grim. At the bottom of the sarcasm and irony beats a heart of, well not gold but silver. He recognizes talent in a young girl playwright but refuses to produce her play because; 'I watched my first playwright eat himself up in 1945, shortly after I got back from the wars. Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a really unusual premise and point of view ...
This is a really unusual premise and point of view. Not your average, run of the mill character and the last chapter is really is confusing whilst also realistic considering the... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Luke Fry
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Not a good read.
Published 9 months ago by sue
3.0 out of 5 stars very long
I feel like I have been reading this book for years. I left and returned and there was always so much of it that I thought it would never end. I wanted him to change his mind. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Jamazon
3.0 out of 5 stars A strange and melancholy book
I found this book extremely difficult to get into but persevered and found it more readable from the middle onwards. Read more
Published 11 months ago by jenny norman
1.0 out of 5 stars I gave up early with book and in fact deleted ...
I gave up early with book and in fact deleted from my kindle as had no interest in completing.
Published 11 months ago by Hils
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Kitchen sink rubbish
Published 11 months ago by Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars Different
Hard to follow, not a bedtime read. Jumps about all over the place so difficult to follow. Not a light read
Published 13 months ago by Wendy Hayes
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and sad
This is so well written. The protagonist dislikes people but hates himself the most and pushes love away when it is offered.
Published 16 months ago by missjeff
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard Going
I realised that when this book arrived it was going to be somewhat hard going and I was right. It's a chunky tome and even the first few pages didn't really grip me and so it took... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Campbell
4.0 out of 5 stars A long-lost classic
This a very stylish and well- written book with the story told in a series of flashbacks that gradually reveal the inevitable. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Graham Almond
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