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Customer Review

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hate thy neighbour as thyself, 24 Jun. 2012
This review is from: A Gay and Melancholy Sound (Nancy Pearl's Book Lust Rediscoveries) (Paperback)
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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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