I like reading about post-WW II, early Mad Men era--basically my grandparents' generation. There is such a rosy glow cast on those times, but simmering underneath were as many problems as there are in any generation. This novel is a perfect period piece, and the war scenes and office dialogue are both spot-on. I enjoyed this book.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.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.Rafeeq O.
Whenever I watch The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit with Gregory Peck, I say, "Boy, it'd be nice to read the original novel by Sloan Wilson sometime, wouldn't it?"...and when I at last came across an old 1956 printing in the local library basement sale, this old paperback shouldered its way immediately to the top of my reading list. I was not disappointed. It is an enjoyable and moving five-star work.The basics of the novel--a combat veteran haunted by memories of the men he killed, and by the brief, desperate love he found in Italy, tries to turn his mousy career and his dispirited marriage around by joining the "rat race"--are familiar to anyone who has seen the film, so there is little need to cover them here. The novel, of course, is more finely grained in its telling detail than any film, and such detail is lifelike and good, and ultimately moving.On the one hand, Wilson's narrative voice can be urbane and gently wry. After spending most of the first page describing a question-mark-shaped crack in the wall of the couple's dingy house, for example, the text reports with calm irony that this suspicious shape "d[oes] not seem symbolic to Tom and Betty, nor even amusing"--and in case we still don't get it, another nudge points out that everyone else cannot help staring at the thing. Sentences of the offhand "It was fashionable that summer to be cynical about one's employers..." variety are a similar joy.Coupled with such minor authorial games, however, is a rich investigation of the mind of ex-paratrooper and now vaguely wary husband Tom Rath. During the Second World War, in close combat, Rath killed seventeen men--a fact "he simply hadn't thought about for quite a few years" rather than "a thing he had deliberately tried to forget." Mm hmm. And yet, as he thinks of those years, "His mind [goes] blank. Suddenly the word 'Maria' flashe[s] into it"...and yet, at least this early on, all we will get is that single word, and then the narrative tacks intriguingly away.Wilson will give more in due time, of course. He will show us Rath's bleak fatalism of December '44, when after two years of fighting in Europe his unit is to be sent to the Pacific, and he knows--knows--that his luck will run out, and in another jump, or two at the most, he will be dead. The future he will never see, the cold beer he will never drink, the rare steaks he will never eat, the lovely wife waiting at home, to whom he will never make love again--they do not seem real, while only the vulnerable and passionate Maria makes life at all palatable. And of course, just before shipping out to the Pacific Theater, he learns that there may be a child...The friend killed by Rath's grenade, the unacknowledged longing for Maria and his abandoned child, his own absent father shell-shocked in the First World War and then likely suicided in the '20s, the ancient grandmother with her tales of family glory, the faithful wife who wants to see him happy and successful--the introspective Tom Rath is pushed and pulled by impetuses he struggles to understand. And if he is to start living again, truly living, he will have to face the truth, as he has been avoiding for so long.Is the ending a little too pat? Perhaps. Certainly Betty Rath, after a revelation that could indeed finish many a marriage, ends up being an astoundingly good sport about it. Would Tom be as forgiving, one might wonder, if Betty, as convinced as he had been of his imminent death, had found comfort as he did in Rome? Maybe at this stage of the novel he might. Wilson does not quite raise the question, however--unfortunate, as even a few lines would be worthwhile.Nevertheless, the conclusion may indeed be believable. Betty Rath, after all, begins to realize that she has never had a clue about even a tenth of what the man sleeping beside her all these years has suffered, and her sympathy is touching, as are her husband's final simple and heartfelt, almost awestruck professions of love. Tom Rath in the end has nothing to hide, and for the first time in years he feels not cynical and bitter but happy, within himself and within his marriage. After delving so believably into the mind of a privileged college boy turned killer, then turned corporate drone, and finally turned balanced human being, Sloan Wilson brings The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit to a conclusion that is life-affirming and even heartwarming.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.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.Consuela
I've loved the movie based on this book for a long time. Gregory Peck plays the title character, Tom in the movie. Tom, home from WWII, has a home in Connecticut with a wife (Betsy), and 3 kids. Tom is trying to move up in the world so he moves into a job in the advertising business. His experience in WWII was horrific, and he flashes back to scenes of it throughout the book. The movie pretty much follows the book closely, although the book has more details.I liked this book a lot. The one difference between the book and movie is that Betsy's character is more developed in the book, and I find myself liking her a lot more in the movie.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...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.Erik Eckel
“It doesn’t really matter. Here goes nothing. It will be interesting to see what happens.” These are the phrases Tom Rath leverages to power through stressful, challenging situations.Rath is the protagonist in Sloan Wilson’s The Man In The Gray Flannel Suit , which landed with impact in 1955. The novel, a scathing indictment of corporate cultures that encourage men to sacrifice personal lives for the corporation’s betterment, occupies a unique position within American literature.Wilson wrote the novel to address at least two concerns. First, he wished to focus attention on the need to accept illegitimate children born to G.I.s. Second, he sought to expose the dangers of white collar workers becoming automaton corporate drones.Interestingly, the gray flannel suit was meant to symbolize corporate enslavement, yet blue collar workers sought such clothing in order to climb the sociological ladder (one the book was published). Hippies and Beatnicks would later rebel against the suited stereotype, when in fact Wilson meant the gray flannel suit to serve as an opponent of materialism.Ultimately, the book finishes too cleanly, a fact Jonathan Franzen notes in his foreword to the most recent printing. Regardless, had I read the book in my 20s it would have changed my life for the better. The work remains an important novel that would prove well served as compulsory, even canonical, material in high schools.Marcel
Creí que iba a ser una novela acerca de los episodios vividos en una oficina y que el protagonista retrataría la existencia de la clase media a partir del trabajo con sus compañeros. La portada incluso me hacía pensar en alguien que se dirige a su trabajo, con cierta perspectiva distante, como si algo no encajara. Las preocupaciones económicas del matrimonio que protagoniza la historia me involucraron dentro de una trama que progresa con el mecanismo del suspenso y la intriga, pero trasladadas a la vida común y corriente de un vecino cualquiera de un barrio de los suburbios. Así se sumerge en el mundo de los miembros de la clase media norteamericana de posguerra, mostrando sus ambiciones, sueños, traumas del pasado y el arco de sus relaciones sentimentales. Es de esas historias que carecen del brillo de la popularidad, pero que tienen mucho que decir a pesar de los años que han transcurrido desde su publicación, pequeños y atractivos tesoros que se encuentran detrás de los grandes clásicos. Es más, los problemas del personaje no dejan de ser los problemas del hombre actual, que atraviesan las preocupaciones laborales como marco para dibujar el destino personal y familiar, con muchos ejemplos a lo largo de la novela.Margie
As a fan of Mad Men I had to get my hands on this book and it exceeded every expectation I had for it. While the writing is simple, the ideas that bubbled beneath are so complex and fine that if I were asked to explain it to another person, I'd struggle to do it justice. Some books, especially the classics, sort of lose you midway, because they cease to be relevant to modern readers. This book, some might say, has become increasingly relevant since its initial publication and I was surprised at the modern and unconventional ideas and themes, considering it was written in the mid 50s. I have looked up the sequel but have heard it was disappointing and I don't want to soil my impression of this beautiful piece of work.Jamie Leighton
This is a great novel to read if you are interested in America in the 1950s. It was a bestseller when it was published in 1955. Themes regarding the role of work and family in our lives are contemporary today-- although Tom and Betsy's lives are more blessed than many 2013 lives and Betsy's place was firmly in the home. Tom's ambitions and career contrast with his ultra-successful workaholic boss's; Hopkins, his boss, pays a price for his constant working with diminished relationships with his wife and daughter. What do Americans value? The book may be a tad too idealistic or simplistic for some; it's like a Frank Cappa movie. The various plot twists are perhaps too neatly tied up in the end for some modern tastes, but I'm a sucker for "It's A Wonderful Life" and nostalgic for the 50's. After the war, life wasn't perfect, but people found work, didn't lose sleep over terrorism, and didn't feel the frustration of the ninety percent. They thought about honesty, about doing the right thing, and there wasn't the same resentment of the ultra-wealthy of 2012 and 2013. Of course, Hopkins was a self-made man, an American dream come true. The role of inheritance and wills comes into play in the book. Bernstein, the small-town Judge, plays the role of the "law" in a very unrealistic way (at least for 2013). However, he is a firmly likable fellow who seeks justice and keeps getting a stomach ache whenever there is a conflict or dispute. If I were to meet someone in real life from this novel, I'd meet him.Meghan Walsh
I love the 50's! I had to read this book and watch the movie for a 1950's History Class I'm taking at Marquette University. Tom Rath is a man who struggles with most parts of his life. He is under stress at work and at home. Tom gets pressure from co-workers and bosses and his wife to excel and do better. But, Tom wants to find the perfect work-life balance. This book clearly displays a man who wants to conform to societal norms, yet others want him to spread his wings. It even touches on such issues as PTSD that Tom fights after his days in WWII Europe. A must read for all sociology majors or those just curious about life in the 50's. The life Tom wants to live is much like that of Ward and June Clever whose biggest concern is what mischief young Beaver is getting in to. But, we all know that's unrealistic. This was an amazing book that deals with the heart of conformity and non-conformity in 1950's America.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.