The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit

The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit

Book - 2002
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Universally acclaimed when first published in 1955, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit captured the mood of a generation. Its title -- like Catch-22 and Fahrenheit 451 -- has become a part of America's cultural vocabulary. Tom Rath doesn't want anything extraordinary out of life: just a decent home, enough money to support his family, and a career that won't crush his spirit. After returning from World War II, he takes a PR job at a television network. It is inane, dehumanizing work. But when a series of personal crises force him to reexamine his priorities -- and take responsibility for his past -- he is finally moved to carve out an identity for himself. This is Sloan Wilson's searing indictment of a society that had just begun to lose touch with its citizens. The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit is a classic of American literature and the basis of the award-winning film starring Gregory Peck. "A consequential novel." -- Saturday Review
Publisher: New York : Four Walls Eight Windows, 2002
ISBN: 9781568582467
Branch Call Number: PS3573.I475 .M3 2002
Characteristics: p. ; cm


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Jul 05, 2016

This modern classic (to use an oxymoron) began for me almost as a duty read, like something from a teacher’s summer reading list. However, it didn’t take long for it to become a compelling story that evoked visions of my childhood. It was a view of my parents’ life, though, not my own. It isn’t what I would call a fun read, either, but I still enjoyed it. The characters aren’t particularly likeable and there certainly isn’t what passes for action these days. It describes the life of a midlevel office worker in New York who returned from the war (WWII) and becomes enmeshed in the corporate rat race and suburban status race while his marriage seems to be crumbling.

I more or less knew that much about it, that and the fact it had been a Gregory Peck movie back in the 1950s. I was surprised to learn that it was much more. There is a very credible account of the life of a WWII paratrooper, a torrid love affair, a complex family and legal relationship with a rich relative who dies with a contested will. It’s like a better-written Mad Men without all the sex, smoking, and booze. Well, there’s a bit of all of those without the excesses of the TV screen version. The writing style seems dated, almost quaint now. It’s not elegant prose; it’s more prosaic than that (to use a tautology). The plot moves briskly as we wait for the main character’s life to implode at any moment. It definitely makes one think about what life is all about, how to balance responsibilities toward family and employer and one’s own need for happiness. If you read this you will be undergoing some self-examination, so be prepared. Have a mirror handy.


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