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A Gay and Melancholy Sound (Nancy Pearl's Book Lust Rediscoveries) Paperback – 3 Apr 2012


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Product details

  • Paperback: 584 pages
  • Publisher: AmazonEncore (3 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1612182976
  • ISBN-13: 978-1612182971
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 13.5 x 20.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,175,665 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Penny Waugh TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 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 By Alun Williams VINE VOICE on 24 Jun 2012
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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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Angus Jenkinson VINE VOICE on 15 July 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Nancy Pearl has done readers of fine literature a great service in returning this book to publication and promoting it. It is a beautifully written, intelligent, emotional and funny work of classic fiction. The setting for the novel is a man planning to commit suicide, reviewing his life through a series of tape recordings during his last days.

Joshua Bland, protagonist and narrator, was born in the 1920s, growing up in the great depression. He had been a child prodigy, a genius famous across America, with the highest ever recorded IQ and a winner of a series of knowledge competitions, especially popular in those difficult years.

Now a mature man, wealthy, a bestselling author, yet a failure by the standards that were set for him, his review is filled with forensically acerbic observation of the smalltown world he grew up in, his family, the people he knew, often with a delightful irony that Jane Austen would have admired. There is nothing bland about Joshua.

His life has been touched with blight, disappointment, loneliness, sorrow, yet despite the context of a planned suicide and the acute and often sharply acid wit, this is a book filled with kindness, honesty, humanity, warmth, humour, good sense.

It asks questions about the purpose and meaning of life, what is a good life, what is the contribution genius should make up, what truly elevates a human being.

Studied with anecdote, fine stories, gems of portraiture and social observation, it deserves to be owned and read by every lover of literature and to remain in print for centuries. I shall leave you to discover the ending.
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