Miller, Merle. A Gay and Melancholy Sound. Las Vegas: Nancy Pearl Presents a Book Lust Rediscovery, 2012.
Reason read: Miller was born in the month of May. Read in his honor.
How to describe A Gay and Melancholy Sound? It is easy to dislike Joshua Bland. As a child genius his life has been the antithesis of his name. His mother always strove for fame and recognition through her son to the point of mental abuse. His father abandoned the situation, leaving Josh to be raised by a hostile and unhappy stepfather. When Josh crumbles under the demands and suffers his first major disappointment it sends his future into a tailspin of apathy and low expectation. He goes on to become a World War II veteran, a bestselling author and a successful producer without any accomplishment touching his life in any meaningful way. He is so disconnected from his feelings that he decides it’s time to commit suicide. Before he does he needs to write his memoirs as one last gift to the world from the prodigy who used to have lofty aspirations.
Soapbox Patter: In 2012 independent book sellers were in an uproar because Nancy Pearl partnered with online bookselling giant, Amazon, to republish a run of books long out of print. For years Amazon has been accused of running small bookstores into the ground with their cheap prices. The boo hiss for Pearl could be heard across the internet. As a librarian, I am quietly applauding “Nancy Pearl Presents a Book Lust Rediscovery” because Pearl has a whole chapter dedicated to the works of Merle Miller in Book Lust. As someone trying to read every book indexed in Book Lust, without AmazonEncore publishing A Gay and Melancholy Sound I don’t think I would have found it as easily as I did. And. And! And, I didn’t have to buy it from evil Amazon. I supported a reputable public library by borrowing it. Miller’s oral biography of Harry Truman (Plain Speaking) is everywhere, but try to find Melancholy. It’s not that easy. [Stepping down from the soapbox now…]
Lines I liked, “She gave the impression that if she hadn’t been able to get into publishing, she could certainly have found an opening in professional wrestling” (p 7), “Agreed, a good teacher is the best kind of human being” (p 190),
Author fact: Miller wrote 16 different books. I’m reading all but two, The Warm Feeling and A Day in Late September.
Book trivia: A Gay and Melancholy Sound is over 500 pages long. I was worried I wouldn’t get through it without an audio backup.
Nancy said: in Book Lust A Gay and Melancholy Sound is “wonderful” but “too emotionally devastating to read a second time” (p 166), But. But! But, this is untrue. In the introduction to A Gay and Melancholy Sound she admitted to “rereading it a dozen more times” (p vi), starting when she was seventeen.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in two different chapters: “Merle Miller: Too Good To Miss” p 155) and “My Own Private Dui” (p 165). You may have noticed I am reading two books from the same Book Lust chapter “My Own Private Dui” (very observant of you, if you did).