Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A Gay and Melancholy Sound” as Want to Read:
A Gay and Melancholy Sound
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

A Gay and Melancholy Sound

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  285 ratings  ·  58 reviews
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 Blan
Paperback, Book Lust Rediscoveries, 584 pages
Published April 3rd 2012 by AmazonEncore (first published January 1st 1960)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about A Gay and Melancholy Sound, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about A Gay and Melancholy Sound

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,038)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
This was an unusual book for me. I didn't quite know how to take it at first. Then, all of the sudden, and quite by surprise, I was thoroughly drawn in and hooked - and I mean HOOKED. Like completely invested in the narrator, who is not exactly the kid next door, nor someone who you wish would live next door.... at least, at first. Then, with time, and with multiple chronological flashbacks and presages, I realized that I CARED for this guy. And that continued. Until the final pages. This was a ...more
A powerful read. Written in 1961 and just now back in print, it is the self-told story of a man's life from childhood (born in the early 1920s) through the then present day (late 1950s), where he is in his late 30s. Beginning as a child prodigy with loads of self-doubt, family problems, etc., we see his life evolve through WW II and the 1950s. He can't love himself or others, and knows this. He realizes that he peaked as a teenager. The main character is very insightful about himself, but can't ...more
What an amazing book. This is NOT for everyone, believe me. It spoke to me profoundly. Such a beautiful multi-layered protagonist. The reviews I have read all emphasize his inability to love. Funnily enough, he loves people in a sadly poignant way throughout the book. He is incapable of resisting his base instincts to destroy.

Beautiful, sad, funny as hell, I had a difficult time putting it down. I loved it. The end is quite a tour de force.
May 07, 2014 Betsy rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Betsy by: Nancy Pearl
I can't believe that I hadn't ever heard of this author considering he is from my hometown, a town of twenty-five thousand people in the middle of Iowa. I probably hadn't heard of him because he was a gay rights activist and a McCarthy trial victim when a town in Iowa might be ashamed of such a thing. Who knows, they might still be ashamed of such a thing. That's one of the reasons I haven't lived there since I graduated from high school.

This book is dark in a lovely way. At first I felt like I
Apr 01, 2012 Susan marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Book Description (from Amazon)
Publication Date: April 3, 2012
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.
In a certain sense, this book is the equivalent of listening to a sad song that brings great joy nonetheless - in my case that would be listening to a Janis Joplin tune such as "Ball and Chain," or "Turtle Blues." Miller is one of those artists who mines unimaginable pain and sadness and hones it into something idiosyncratically and strangely beautiful.

I did not expect to like this book - I am one of those unfortunate creatures who judges books by their titles, and this one sounded a bit too 'fl
Merle Miller, who is best known as a presidential biographer, wrote this semi-autobiographical diary in 1961, ten years before his very public "coming out" in a NY Times Magazine article entitled "What it means to be a homosexual." That said, the word "gay" in the title does not refer to homosexuality. It is alluded to on two or three occasions in the book. The most revealing statement comes when describing another man, "the actor had seen something in me that I did not dare to see in myself". T ...more
This book intrigued me because it was the first reprint in the Nancy Pearl A Book Lust Rediscovery series. I’m so glad I took a chance on it. What could be considered maudlin, self-indulgent and depressing turned into a very good read for me. I didn’t remember the name “Merle Miller” before, but had heard of his 1971 “Time” article, “What It Means to Be Homosexual.” While somewhat autobiographical, it’s not quite as I don’t believe Mr. Miller committed suicide. The novel is rather sweeping, taki ...more
I liked , then hated, then liked, then hated again, Joshua Bland ( the narrator of this book). The book, told in the first person, traces the life of Joshua Bland from being a child prodigy in the 1920's to the 1960's. I was sympathetic with Joshua as a child but as he ages and depressingly goes on and on about his inability to love and penchant for hurting everyone around him, I became less sympathetic. As the book goes on ( and it does for over 500 pages!) and he starts to deteriorate clearly ...more
Mary Anne
Merle Miller's book was chosen by Book Lust Rediscoveries, a “series devoted to reprinting some of the best (and now out of print) novels originally published between 1960-2000. Each book is personally selected by Nancy Pearl and includes an introduction by her, as well as discussion questions for book groups and a list of recommended further reading.”

I thoroughly enjoyed the author's sense of humor and character development. The main character is named Joshua Bland, but his life was anything b
Very smart...i felt as if i were being challenged to keep up with this witty and somber tale. I also felt it was autobiographical in some respects. Going up different, feeling alienated from the "Out There" rang true to his life I think... He was a wounded from birth but not all bright kids get exploited. More people should be careful about what they hold as their ideals..and not sell out for greed, fame or prestige. How can you say a man cannot love who cries at tender moments. I don't buy that ...more
I found this book through something called "Nancy Pearl's Book Lust Rediscoveries" (she's an author and librarian in the U.S.)It's written in an autobiographical first-person style, which sometimes made me uncomfortable, but I actually like that. The author's done well in creating a character who is generally awful but frequently relatable as well. He's all the worst parts of yourself, particularly if you've ever thought you were smarter than everyone around you or been worried about living up t ...more
I have always liked Merle Miller's books; "Plain Speaking" made President Truman a personal hero of mine, his book on LBJ made this tragic man real for me. But when I read Nancy Pearl's intro to this book, I nearly didn't read it at all. Who wants to read a novel about an unloved, depressed PTSD driven alcoholic of uncertain sexuality who is contemplating suicide. But not reading this book would have been a mistake. Every glowing word in Nancy Pearl's introduction was deserved. For all of its sa ...more
William Crosby
Essentially a fictional autobiography which is one of my least favorite genres. For example, I hated "Something happened" (Heller). Yet, you see the 5 stars. This was a fascinating book. At times it became tedious and I had to leave and then come back and then it was not so tedious.

The narrator is often bitter and cynical. There were various aspects of the Bland character with which I identified and I also found him insufferable. However, I am not planning on killing myself although I do have mo
This novel as autobiography of a child prodigy and WWII veteran was heavy-hearted reading; poignant, opinionated, farcical, smart-assed. Merle Miller did an amazing job of creeping around the miserable, web-laced catacombs of Joshua Bland's life, one leaden step at a time. Thank you, Nancy Pearl, for bringing this 1961 work back to reading lamp life. And thanks to Jeanette in Seattle for introducing me to Nancy Pearl.
Oct 25, 2008 Erik marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I was half through this book when it was recalled by the library, with a long waiting list there is no extending the checkout. Apparently out-of-print, I haven't been able to find a copy except in the rare collections of used book stores ($$). I was really enjoying the dry, dark wit of the book and the unfolding, self-inflicted circumstance of an unhappy man's life. No stars though till I pony up the cash and finish the book.
Kelly Brill
The NPR book expert Nancy Pearl inspired me to read this book - it's one of her all-time favorites (in fact, because of her, Amazon has reprinted the book.) It won't be on my all-time favorite list but I did appreciate the writing style, the occasional wit, the psychological insights and the cultural commentary (often biting). This novel reads as a memoir of a self-obsessed unhappy man who is extremely self-aware. The book's subtlety in addressing issues of sexuality and depression/mental illnes ...more
Jeff Hanson
Nov 02, 2014 Jeff Hanson rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Jeff DF
Merle Miller's A Gay and Melancholy Sound is the second book I've read in Nancy Pearl's Rediscovered series. The first, the excellent The Cowboys and the Cossacks was a breezy adventure story that was quick and compelling. This book is much larger, and more difficult to get through, but is also definitely worth rediscovering. This is the story of boy-genius named Joshua Bland, his small town Iowa boyhood, his overbearing mother, and his journey into adulthood, and the disillusionment with the wo ...more
Maria Paiz
Joshua Bland, a former celebrity as a small-town child prodigy, whose life was full of promises that were never quite fulfilled, is intent upon committing suicide and decides to tell the story of his life before shutting the final curtain. As a brilliant mind, he (sometimes haphazardly) achieved financial successes as a writer and later as a theater producer, but he never lived up to his own expectations. A captious cynic, an arrogant, bitter, sarcastic, insolent misanthrope, Bland realizes he w ...more
Apr 27, 2013 Wendolyn rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Wendolyn by: NPR
Shelves: autobiography
Recommended by NPR:
"Joshua Bland was born and raised in a small Iowa town where, unloved by his mother and stepfather, he grew up with a lacerating self-hatred. Once acclaimed as a child prodigy, he has always believed that he was never quite smart enough. Throughout his life, Joshua has systematically destroyed whatever happiness could be his, knowing exactly what he was doing as he did it, but unable to stop himself. While A Gay and Melancholy Sound is certainly grounded in the great historica
Joshua Bland cannot love. Joshua Bland is unlovable. Through crippling self-hatred, an overcompensated inferiority complex, a genius-level IQ, and a remarkable knack for self-sabotage, Joshua Bland managed to completely ruin any chance at happiness he could've had. What's more, he knew he was doing it. So now he's decided to create a voice-recorded chronicle of his life complete with his few triumphs and many failures. The resulting account shows the complexity of a life burdened by expectation ...more
I wasn't as keen on this book as Nancy Pearl, whose taste usually accords with mine. I found it tedious to be restricted to a single narrative perspective. And it is a sad journey to follow this depressed man relate his story.
Funny yet so very sad. A child genius succumbs to the habit of disdain that his unloving and unloveable mother models for him. This is his account of his life as he records it over several days preceding his planned suicide. Unflinching in his self-critical story telling, he subverts any possible pity that may be evolving during reminiscences of neglect by recounting acts of emotional and physical cruelties of his own. The author captures a life of brilliant despair in a very long and very thoro ...more
I liked this book much more than I thought I would. The author does get a little long winded at times; I'm not sure the book really needed to be quite as long as it was. Yet, the author has that "magic" touch that makes a reader actually care about a man that is not likable by using wit, dark humor, and creating a really interesting story. The book was published in 1961, but I had to keep reminding myself of that while reading it. It felt as though it could have published last year if some of th ...more
May 27, 2014 Jessica rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jessica by: Kindle (Nancy Pearl)
Shelves: fiction
I don't know what to think of this one. I mean, I liked it but I can't say I've read a true "memoir as novel" before (or maybe it was novel as memoir?) A rather depressing read - very self-depreciating and bitter - but still compelling, particularly for the socio-historical aspect (is that a thing?). The ending is quite dramatic - as the life-long literate narrator deteriorates, it becomes difficult to decipher what is going on and it becomes increasingly disturbing. Not necessarily a fitting en ...more
Cyberbiker Deitrick
This book is well written, just not something that I found engrossing.
a complex story, an adventure in trying to understand what may have really happened by sifting through the lengthy oral autobiography of a sad, gifted man. This narrator may be impossible to bear as a friend, but as a companion in literature, he is exasperating, outrageous, self-centred, and wonderful.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I wanted to read this book as it's one of Nancy Pearl's Book lust rediscoveries series.
Joshua Bland has to be one of the saddest, most cynical characters I've ever read about. And yet I totally got drawn into his narrative and I was hooked. (The first person view works well here.) The book deals with a lot of psychology and Bland's observations concerning people made me smile more than once.
Jul 19, 2014 Dee rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Dee by: Nancy Pearl
I liked this book, but the ending was very difficult. I don't think I've ever read a book where the protagonist was filled with such self-loathing.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 34 35 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Last Night at the Ritz
  • After Life
  • Plum & Jaggers
  • Lion in the Lei Shop, The: A Novel
  • The Cowboy and the Cossack
  • The Map of My Dead Pilots: The Dangerous Game of Flying in Alaska
  • The Best American Travel Writing 2012
  • A Partial History of Lost Causes
  • Treasure Island!!!
  • One Sweet Quarrel
  • The Best American Sports Writing 2012
  • Needle
  • Sea of Hooks
  • Last Night in Montreal
  • The Best American Essays 2012
  • The Best American Short Stories 2012
  • The Diamond Lane
  • The Way I Found Her
Merle Miller, born in Montour, Iowa, wrote almost a dozen books, including more than half a dozen novels. His first, ''That Winter'' (1948), was considered one of the best novels about the postwar readjustment of World War II veterans. His other novels included ''A Day in Late September,'' set in suburban Connecticut on a Sunday in September 1960, ''The Sure Thing,'' ''Reunion,'' and his masterwor ...more
More about Merle Miller...
Plain Speaking: an Oral Biography of Harry S Truman On Being Different: What It Means to Be a Homosexual Lyndon: An Oral Biography Ike the Soldier The Warm Feeling

Share This Book