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The Night Listener [Paperback]

Armistead Maupin
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Oct 2001

Gabriel Noone is a writer whose late night radio stories have brought him into the homes of millions. Noone is in the midst of a painful separation from his lover of ten years when a publisher sends him proofs of a remarkable book: the memoir of a sickly thirteen-year-old boy who suffered horrific sexual abuse at the hands of his parents.

Now living with his adoptive mother, Donna, Pete Lomax is not only a brave and gifted diarist but a devoted listener of Noone's show. When Noone phones the boy to offer encouragement, it soon becomes clear that Pete sees in this heartsick, middle-aged storyteller the loving father he's always wanted. Thus begins an extraordinary friendship that grows deeper only as the boy's health deteriorates, freeing Noone to unlock his innermost feelings.

Then, out of the blue, troubling new questions arise, exploding Noone's comfortable assumptions and causing his ordered existence to spin wildly out of control. As he walks a vertiginous line between truth and illusion, he is finally forced to confront all his relationships - familial, romantic and erotic.

As complex and hypnotically engrossing as the best of mysteries, The Night Listener is an astonishing tour de force that moves and challenges Maupin's readers as never before.

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The Night Listener + Maybe The Moon + Michael Tolliver Lives (Tales of the City)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Black Swan; New Ed edition (1 Oct 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552142409
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552142403
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 101,891 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Famed for his newspaper-column Tales of the City saga, Armistead Maupin has made the transition to fully fledged novelist with panache. Maintaining the wit and conversational duelling of the Tales--indeed, sharp-eyed fans will find odd intrusions from the past here--Maupin's The Night Listener is a gripping novel, brilliantly plotted and ultimately extremely moving, exploring "the chance to feel love without boundaries".

When yet another book manuscript drops onto Gabriel Noone's doormat craving his approval, the beloved late-night radio storyteller is sceptical--but this one is different. It's The Blacking Factory, the autobiographical tale of Pete Lomax, a child abused and sold for sex by his parents, who has survived, thanks to his adoptive mother, psychologist Donna. Flattered that this young boy is an inveterate night listener of his shows, Gabriel contacts Pete, and in time their telephone relationship blooms into something approaching father and son--until Gabriel begins to have doubts about who Pete is. At the same time, Gabriel's father falls ill and his life truly becomes "a loose confederation of uncertainties".

Perhaps this new emotional pull isn't altogether unsurprising beause like many others of his generation of gay writers--Edmund White, Andrew Holleran, Felice Picano--Maupin is now trading more explicitly in the raw materials of his own life. Gabriel Noone shares much with Armistead Maupin--a writer, whose fame is based on a popular form, raised in South Carolina, based in San Francisco, with a lover who leaves him when it becomes clear he's not about to die, and a same-named and difficult father. But Maupin has always been more cagey than his peers about revealing too much of himself--Noone, like his creator, is "a fabulist by trade", overly given to embroidering his stories, or "jewelling the elephant" as he puts it. And for all it reveals about Maupin the man, in its final pages The Night Listener protects its author's privacy--refusing to distinguish between fact and fiction, and refusing to allow that distinction to become important. --Alan Stewart --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"'A tremendous, hugely satisfying read'" (Time Out)

"'Absorbing, sophisticated, funny and touching'" (The Sunday Times)

"'Elegantly conceived and executed, The Night Listener marks a long overdue return to fiction by one of America's best-loved writers...a real page-turner'" (Sunday Telegraph)

"'His most mature, mellow and moving novel yet'" (Independent)

"'A mystery studded with elegant twists and turns'" (The New York Times Book Review)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly believable 25 July 2010
By Benjamin TOP 500 REVIEWER
Gabriel Noone, gay and out, is a successful writer and networked broadcaster with a nightly radio slot where he reads from his writings. As we meet him he has recently been left by his lover, a man some of some ten years younger than Gabriel's fifty-something, and is struggling to come to terms with being alone again. He has also just received a transcript for his endorsement from a publisher; the work of a thirteen year old boy, Pete, how has endured in his short life a history of abuse. Pete is a regular listen and avid fan of Gabriel's, and impressed with the lad's writing Gabriel gets in touch with the boy, and quickly a regular telephone dialogue is established.

However Jess, Gabriel's ex-lover, begins to sow doubts as the the authenticity of Pete. We follow Gabriel as he takes us back over the year, and learn about his relationship with Jess, with his father, and with Pete and Pete's guardian; along the way Gabriel provides frequent glimpses into his past.

The Night Listener is highly accomplished piece of writing, thoroughly involving and utterly believable, such that I had to keep checking that this was a work of fiction and not fact. The enigmatic conclusion left me with a wry smile.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought Provoking 10 Nov 2001
By A Customer
After the disappointing 'Maybe the Moon', I was apprehensive, but the 'Tales of the City' stories were so good, I had to give Maupin the benefit of the doubt. I am so glad I did. This book left me thinking a lot...about the story that had just unfolded, the clever twist I was not expecting and the emotions it had brought out in me and left me to deal with. I love it when books do that! There's something for everyone to relate to here: family relationships, partnerships, even pet-owners. Maupin is not being 'self-obsessed' - he's writing a story, about life, love, suspicion, difficult questions and possible outcomes. It certainly left me with a wry smile on my face.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Morning, Noone and Night 25 May 2004
By A Customer
How do you define love? How do you picture someone you have never met? And how are you able to believe so much when you understand so little? With "The Night Listner" questions are raised, personal inner most fears are realised and the people who are closest to you answer a question whilst raising dozens more. Maupin has, in this book, excelled. He helps us to feel on so many levels what the characters are experiencing. Hard hitting issues are well presented without the need to "glamourise". From page one you become hooked with his writing feeling almost musical in its descriptions. I can recount many emotions emerging as I read about Noone's rollercoaster ride, from actual tears and sorrow, through to laugh out loud moments. Maupin intertextual style of writing in this book does not become evident until the very final few pages, which makes it such an interesting read. High praise to Maupin. An extrordinary piece of literary prose.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting 19 July 2007
This is a good read, but there were things about the story that irritated me a bit. I don't want to spoil in my review so I won't go too much into why, but when Gabriel started to have misgivings about Pete why didn't he think to find out about the case? Why did no one else with these questions trouble to do the same thing? It was interesting how Gabriel began to confront his daemons in a way from his conversations with Pete, I suppose you could also draw a parallel with 'An Inspector Calls'. In all, worth a read but I wouldn't say it was as good as Maupin's previous books.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Maupin succeeds again 20 April 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Having re-read all the original `Tales of the City' series, followed more recently by `Michael Tolliver Lives' and `Mary Ann in Autumn', I had put off reading `The Night Listener', reluctant to say goodbye to the Barbary Lane gang. However, along the way, there were brief references which would only be noticed by `Tales' readers, so why did I wait so long?? I was gripped from the first page.

Gabriel is a radio storyteller, who receives the draft of a story by, Pete, a young fan of his radio show. Gabriel gets in touch with this young fan, by phone.

Alongside the developing relationship, albeit by phone, between Gabriel and Pete, a young teenager suffering from AIDS as a result of sexual abuse, I was desperately wanting Gabriel and his partner Jess to reconcile, even though it seemed increasingly unlikely, not so much by Jess's growing apartness, but largely because of Gabriel himself, for whom, getting to his core was like peeling away layer after layer of an onion and, perhaps just as tricky.

This was displayed in the odd moment of self revelation and in Gabriel's conversations with young Pete. It became harder to distinguish who was the comforter and who was the comforted. Then there were the moments when Gabriel could relax, talking to Pete's long suffering and protective adoptive mother, Donna. I found the way this was written, rang so true.

Gabriel's on-off relationship with his acerbic father, must be all too familiar to gay men who are loved by their fathers, but who can only deal with their son's gay status, by ignoring it.

Gabriel's increasing doubts about Pete were written, so that I was urging him to make the journey to visit, long before it happened in the story. Was I more disappointed than Gabriel that the visit was unsatisfactory?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent
It's so unusual to find a book that is both beautifully written and with a storyline that picks you up and grips you right to the end. This is one of those rare tomes....... Read more
Published 2 months ago by linc
3.0 out of 5 stars so so
Rather far fetched story indeed. You really have to suspend your doubts. Like tales of the city, this is very two dimensional fodder, as if written for teenagers.
Published 6 months ago by andrew powell
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow
I read this book on holiday in approx 8 intense hours (I was great company) and was completely riveted. It's one of the best books I've read in ages. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Telfsey
5.0 out of 5 stars Fab fab fab
I want to read more as ever the tale carried me along, always wanted to go to San Fran now must.
Published 13 months ago by Fergie Fergus
4.0 out of 5 stars Adjusting to loss
How we adjust - or not - to the loss of a child, parent or lover is the theme runnning through this novel. Read more
Published 23 months ago by JoTownhead
4.0 out of 5 stars An unnerving read!
I guess I must be alone in feeling somewhat uncomfortable with the relationship between a man in his late fifties who keeps saying he loves an abused 13 year old. Read more
Published on 11 Mar 2007 by DM Webster
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Interesting Read!
I must admit to having not read Armistead Maupin before, I had heard of his work but have not previously been tempted to indulge.... Read more
Published on 18 Mar 2006 by Martin Belcher
3.0 out of 5 stars Pretentious attempt at literary allusion
Mr.Maupin has written a series of popular character driven novels, and 'The Night Listener' will appeal to those familiar with his previous work.Here Mr. Read more
Published on 31 July 2005 by I. R. Young
5.0 out of 5 stars Fiction about Fiction
I've always loved Maupin's work, seeing it primarily as 'comfort food fiction', although definitely your organic dark chocolate kind as opposed to high-sugar candy. Read more
Published on 7 April 2003
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