ISBN 10: 1612182976 / ISBN 13: 9781612182971
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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.

Review: Reviews

"One of my all-time favorite novels...Merle Miller has written what I think is probably the purest example of the novel as autobiography that I’ve ever read. I found unforgettable his stark and stunning portrait of an Iowa-born former child prodigy whose inability to love stems from a lacerating self-hatred. Throughout his life Joshua Bland has systematically destroyed whatever happiness could be his, knowing exactly what he was doing as he did it, but unable to stop himself. His behavior, which will perhaps be inexplicable to some readers, seemed all too understandable to me... A Gay and Melancholy Sound is certainly grounded in the great historical events of the mid-twentieth century – the Second World War and McCarthyism, to take two notable examples. Yet, Miller’s novel never feels dated or awkward: there’s no strong whiff of the long-dead past emanating from its pages. Indeed, there’s enough snark, emotional pain, and irony to satisfy even the most demanding twenty-first century reader."
-- Nancy Pearl, author of the Book Lust series.

"One of the two or three really important books to come along in this country since the war.  I cannot remember having read a novel that disturbed and moved me as deeply as this one has done.  Nor have I read one in which the ideas and technical execution have been so perfectly matched.  It is one of the rare truthful books, painfully and blindingly so.  He has caught at least one of the deepest truths about our times:  perhaps (I hope) not the only truth there is, but certainly one of the most important.  It is not only his best book:  that goes without saying.  It is one of the best books." 
-- Paxton Davis, author of Being a Boy

"It's Merle Miller's best book—and engrossing nightmare.  He has always been eloquent and clever.  But in this story he is passionate too.  His idea for a victim-hero is a knockout, the best protagonist for the kind of indictment of American life he makes that I've encountered."
–- Ira Wolfert, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Tucker"s People

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