The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit II

ISBN: 0877954747
ISBN 13: 9780877954743
By: Sloan Wilson

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Reader's Thoughts

Ffiamma

rassicurante romanzo degli anni 50 sulla quotidianità di un uomo *medio* e della sua famiglia (moglie casalinga e tre figli). la vita scorre nella routine per tom rath, tra il lavoro, le preoccupazioni economiche, i piccoli bisogni- e quando arriva una svolta, la possibilità di un nuovo impiego più redditizio- tutto sembra incrinarsi e i ricordi legati alla guerra si fanno ingombranti e gettano altre nubi sul presente. sarà la dolce betsy, moglie di tom, ad aiutarlo a uscire dall'impasse, insieme alla scelta di essere onesto e sincero fino in fondo. zuccheroso ma interessante spaccato di vita, in cui l'apparente perfezione del sogno americano comincia a incrinarsi.

Keith Raffel

A classic and deservedly so.

Sara

LOVED this. I'm a sucker for anything 1950s, and this was a great look at the depressing conformity of that era. My dad recommended this book to me after I raved about the AMC show "Mad Men." It's pretty clear that the show's writers took the plot almost directly from this book. Both deal with the same dynamic: War-hero husbands quietly dealing with the mental fall-out of WW2, housewives stifled by a life of cleaning and baking, and what happens when no one is allowed to talk about how they're really feeling. One thing I thought was really interesting: The man character, Tom Rath, is trying to get ahead in his career. His big break comes when he's asked to write a speech for the head of a broadcasting network, who is trying to build a foundation for mental health. Tom drafts several bland versions of the speech, all while having traumatic flashbacks to his time as a paratrouper. Somehow, it never occurs to him that HE is the example his speech needs. No one in the book ever makes the connection that the mental health foundation could be used to treat the thousands of men coming back from war with major issues. Instead, it all has to be bottled up and ignored — dressed up in a gray flannel suit.

Núria

Ambientada en la década de los cincuenta, cuando no se hablaba de las frustraciones sino que se ahogaban en martinis, “El hombre del traje gris” de Sloan Wilson se centra en Tom Rath, un hombre que lleva una vida idéntica a la de miles de hombres de aquella época. Tom Rath vive en Connecticut pero cada mañana coge el tren para ir a trabajar a Nueva York. Tom tiene una mujer preciosa que le espera en casa y tres adorables hijos pequeños, pero esto no parece suficiente; en la pared del comedor hay un desconchado en forma de interrogante y las malas hierbas pueblan el jardín. Tom, pero especialmente su mujer (que por algo se pasa el día en casa) odian el vecindario en el que viven, sólo porque sus vecinos son personas como ellos, gente que desea marcharse de este barrio para ir a uno mejor. “El hombre del traje gris” hace una radiografía de la vida en los suburbios durante los años 50 del mismo modo que la hizo John Cheever, pero Sloan Wilson no es tan amargo y pesimista, y en lugar de poner émfasis en las insatisfacciones y la frustración, prefiere centrarse en los esfuerzos que hace el protagonista para conseguir un equilibrio que le permita ser moderadamente feliz. No es que a Tom le guste el dinero, pero sí le gusta lo que se puede hacer con él, por ejemplo pagar en el futuro la universidad a sus tres hijos. Pero Tom tampoco se quiere matar trabajando para su familia, sábados, domingos y vacaciones incluidas, y luego no poder estar nunca con ellos. Tom lucha, como tantos otros, para poder equilibrar vida laboral y vida privada. Pero estos no son los dos únicos mundos que intenta armonizar Tom, también intenta reconciliar pasado y presente, y su traumática experiencia como paracaidista en la segunda guerra mundial con su reintroducción en la vida civil. Se ha acusado muchas veces esta novela de “conformista”, como si este adjetivo tuviera una connotación peyorativa por naturaleza. Tom Wrath a veces es pesimista, casi siempre consciente de sus limitaciones y en ocasiones duda de sus capacidades, pero nunca es un ser pasivo. ¿Qué tiene de malo intentar ser feliz con lo que uno tiene al alcance? Demasiadas veces parece que la literatura debe contar sólo grandes historias de amor, hechos heroicos, vidas rebeldes o cualquier cosa que se salga de la norma, cuando igual de épica puede ser la lucha de un hombre de traje gris que intenta conservar su individualidad en una sociedad que se empeña en anularla, como también lo pueden ser los esfuerzos de un hombre corriente para conservar cierta honestidad y sinceridad (para con los otros pero también consigo mismo) en un entorno hostil. El protagonista desea encontrar lo que los clásicos llamaban “aurea mediocritas”, un término medio que le permita ser feliz, porque sino ¿qué otra opción tiene? ¿Hacerse beatnik y vagabundear por toda Norteamérica? Éste no sería precisamente el estilo de Tom Wrath. El final de “El hombre del traje gris” puede parecer un final feliz al estilo de las películas de Frank Capra, pero como muchas de las películas de Frank Capra si uno se pone a analizar este supuesto final feliz no puede evitar empezar a ver fisuras. Por ejemplo, al final de “¡Qué bello es vivir!” George Bailey descubre que todo el pueblo se ha volcado para ayudarlo porque lo aprecian y, sí, esto está bien, pero no es lo que quería George Bailey en un principio; él quería viajar, descubrir el mundo y sobre todo no quedarse atrapado en Bedford Falls. De modo parecido, puede dar la sensación que Tom Wrath ha conseguido todo lo que quería, pero no se puede evitar pensar que esto no es suficiente y que, si lo ha conseguido, ha sido más que nada por un golpe de suerte y que, como en las numerosas ocasiones anteriores en las que todo parecía ir viento en popa, las cosas se volverán a torcer en el momento menos pensado. “El hombre del traje gris” es una obra en la que, por más que nunca se miren de frente, los sinsabores de la vida siempre están ahí escondidos, a punto de salir a la superficie en forma de jarrón estampado contra la pared. La novela se termina, pero uno tiene la sensación que la lucha por conseguir el equilibrio de Tom Wrath no se acabará jamás; las dificultades y las pequeñas frustraciones durarán toda la vida. Se podría decir que la lectura de John Cheever deja un sabor amargo, mientras que la de Sloan Wilson deja una sensación agridulce.

James

Not quite as accomplished as Richard Yates' 1962 masterpiece 'Revolutionary Road', this novel is, nevertheless, a fascinating portrait of postwar suburban angst and an exposé of self-fulfilling corporate greed. At times it is perhaps a little doe-eyed and naive; ultimately positing that, whilst marriage and lowly corporate subservience are undesirable, they can be worked through with diligence. However, Wilson's achievement lies more in the fact that he was unafraid to hold a mirror up to 1950's America at a time when it was unfashionable to do so (especially with writers going to prison and being blacklisted by Senator Joseph McCarthy for daring to raise their heads above water). Not only a time-capsule but, if you're savvy enough to recognise it, an allegory for our own period of conformity...

Christina

They drank a lot of cocktails in the 1950's.

Marty

This is a simply and beautifully told narrative of self discovery in post WW2 American society. It describes the pressures, not just of the 1950’s, but of our subsequent society as well, to conform in our money-driven, success-oriented work world through sacrificing other aspects of our lives, i.e. family - in essence to become the man in the gray flannel suit - and one man’s choice to modify that path. Post traumatic stress disorder, although it was not known by that name in the 50’s, and is usually considered a previous (WWI shell-shock) and later (Afganistan and Iraq veterans) phenomenon, is depicted with sensitivity, giving the book an anti-war element. Both repressed, angry Rath, and his almost too-good-to-be-true wife Betsy, are believable. Jonathan Franzen, in his introduction to the most recent edition, is off-base when he says that the quality of the first half of the novel exceeds that of the second half; the novel is consistently strong from beginning to end. Without being heavy-handed, Wilson clearly conveys his message of the importance of honesty, the burden of harboring untold secrets, and the liberation of revealing them.

Luke Coffey

A seemingly forgotten novel that so closely depicts the mindset of the generation recuperating from the horrors of World War II, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit captures the feel of the 1950's America by stripping away the grandiose and content facade of post-war suburban life and immerses the reader in the reality of that way of life. A novel that can be interpreted in many different fashions, a stance against conformity, the voice of a struggling generation, the exemplary showing of the flawed concept of the American dream. It contains a message for all readers. Vastly underrated and little known in todays society Suit still holds a prominent message that can easily be translated into our own daily lives.

Crystal

A great look at 1950s suburban life in post-WWII America. The eponymous man in the gray flannel, Tom Rath, traverses his way higher up the corporate ladder not for any great love of business or work, but simply because he needs more money to support his family. He has no affinity toward working harder for the love of his career, but simply wants to make ends meet in an upper-middle class manner. Though this book is over 50 years old its main points still hold very true today. Good, quick read with an interesting forward by Jonathan Franzen, who counts Sloan Wilson as an influence on his modern-day novels (like The Corrections) that tackle similar themes.

Mike

I had through my life occasionally heard the phrase "the Man in the Gray Flannel Suit" used as an unflattering term for the unreflective salaryman. Then Mad Men came out, and I re-read The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and I thought that it was just about time to read this one. So I did.I was surprised to discover that the book is not a long screed about the meaninglessness of life as a gray-suited salaryman. It is instead about a man who faces familiar problems. Tom, the protagonist, has to figure out how to get his family out of a small home, put his children into a good school, and pay for them to go to college. He has to figure out how to get over the War—the only time in his life when he felt really alive—and make up with his wife for everything he did and did not do during and after the War. He has to figure out how to be true to himself while also continuing to be employed and please his employer.What I was surprised to find out was that Tom did not have a jaundiced view of his employer, Mr. Hopkins. You might think, given the book's reputation, that the main character would have an awakening and see the ridiculousness of his life, and rebel against Mr. Hopkins, the 18-hour-a-day workaholic. But Tom does not dislike Mr. Hopkins; rather, he respects him. He just knows he can't be like him.The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, far from being a story about disillusionment and awakening—perhaps a la Revolutionary Road—is actually a novel about becoming who you are, and realizing who that is. If you want to read about the banality of suburbia, read Revolutionary Road, or maybe Dharma Bums. Don't read this.The ending, without giving anything away, is what keeps this book from being a great book. It is justly remembered as a period piece. When we talk about post-war literature, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit deserves a place near the top of the reading and discussion list. But it is not a five-star book because despite being an excellent story, it's a good book, rather than a great one. That said, I recommend it, especially to the man looking ahead at the rest of his life and wondering what to do about it.

Anthony Mathenia

I picked up The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit with the understanding that it inspired the popular television show Mad Men. In reading the book the similarities are readily apparent. Both deal with the white collar corporate environment of the late 1950's, early 1960's. The leads in both are war time veterans attempting to find where they fit in, balancing their New York careers with their suburban home life and struggling with their duty to their wives and the torch they still carry in their heart for another. The lead character is Tom Rath, a former World War II paratrooper, working a corporate job and slogging along in the pursuit of happiness. His wife Betsy dreams of moving up in the world and encourages Tom to try for a potentially lucrative job as a public relations professional in a major television network. Tom lands the job and has an opportunity for real advancement as the right hand man of network head Ralph Hopkins. Hopkins is consumed with work at the expense of his family life and Tom has to decide if he is willing to make the same sacrifice. The main story is interesting enough but the subplots were pretty flat and unnecessary, such as Tom's legal attempt to obtain an inherited home versus a rival claimant. Where this book is most compelling is when it deals with the brutality of wartime. Tom fights the inner demons that come from the death of his friends and the enemies he killed with his own hands. There is a very moving passage in the book where Tom attempts to rationalize the lunacy of wartime with his post war life. It begins with, "they ought to begin wars with a course in basic training and end them with a course in basic forgetting." So true.The writing in this novel is serviceable to the story, neither good or bad. I wasn't wowed by the plot of the the Gray Flannel Suit. It often seemed to drag, such as when it dealt with Tom's constant attempt to rewrite a speech for Hopkins. As a whole, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, is an authentic capsule of the mentality of the time and I suppose worth reading for that, especially for those interested in the era.

Pierre Corneille

** spoiler alert ** This sequel to "Man in the Gray Flannel Suit" is a good read. When we left off in the first book, Tom Rath had decided to face their lives squarely: Rath was going to be devoted to his family and willing to work as needed, and that included the child he had fathered in Italy during the war.This novel takes up Mr. Rath twelve years later, in 1963. He is dissatisfied with his marriage, fearful he might lose his job, and is having trouble relating to his own, now adolescent, children in the States and frequently thinks about his son in Italy. He and his wife are going through a midlife crisis.The book indulges a little too much in historical sight-seeing. When he and his secretary's jobs as promoters of a committee on mental health gains momentum in the fall of 1963, the reader is aware that JFK will soon be assassinated and things will go to rot. It's almost too convenient for the story line that Rath's Italian son visits in the 1960s, decides to stay in America, joins the army, and dies in the Vietnam War.Still, I recommend this novel.

Eric Durant

Amazing. Best book I've read in a while. The theme is timeless. I'm looking forward to my book club discussing it in a few months.

Redshirt Knitting

This book was recommended to me as being "something every Mad Men fan should read." It has similar themes, but was ineptly written. About 2/3rds of the book's bulk is comprised of characters either A) talking to each other, or B) thinking out loud. You start to appreciate the old writing class cliche about "show me, don't tell me."If you want some 50s angst, check out Sylvia Plath's "The Bell Jar." It touches many of the same issues, and is about a million times better than this book in every respect.

Erin

In the current edition of the book Jonathan Franzen writes an introduction, in which he explains that the first half of the book is a great work, and the second half falls flat. I have to agree that the ending is disappointing. The book starts out just completely full of emotion that I think rings very true with the current disillusioned generation. I take the train to my office job every day and work hard to move up a ladder to somewhere, because I want the stuff everyone else has and the house and maybe babies or whatever, but at the same time it all feels false and like I probably shouldn't frame my life around my career. These, and the complicated blend of emotions one experiences after an experience in a wartime environment, make up the bulk of the emotional punch this novel packs. I really enjoyed it. Even if everything was wrapped up with a neat bow, and nothing was painful or shocking, it resonated and resonates and will resonate with that particular feeling of being young, but not young enough that you can be as irresponsible as you want to be. Of having to do things for others and being dominated by worry about money. It's a great glimpse into the period of time when people were opening their eyes and realizing where they were in the 50s, and I imagine I have a little more of an idea of what it feels like to be inside Don Draper's head.Definitely worth the read, as long as you don't mind when things are just a little unrealistically in favor of the protagonists.

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