Not long ago, I discovered the books of Sloan Wilson. I know what you're thinking: "who the hell is he?" Wilson was an American writer best known for his 1955 bestselling novel, "The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit," a tale about the post-war American male's search for meaning in mid-century America.
I discovered Wilson after having read all that Richard Yates had to offer and wanting something similar. I had read Yates's "Revolutionary Road" and was really digging the time capsule that Yates's books present. All of Yates's books take place somewhere between the 40s and the 60s, dipping back into the 30s when a story perhaps has to do with his childhood or his mother. Somewhere in my research, or perhaps in the Yates biography, "A Tragic Honesty," Revolutionary Road was compared to The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. The two are similar in that they both take place in the 1950s and focus on male characters who become dissatisfied with their lives; feeling that after having survived a war there must be something more to life than the drudgery of a white-collar job, cigarettes, whiskey and life in the suburbs. In any event, I obtained a copy of The Man in the....".
So it wasn't nearly as good as Revolutionary Road; far more dated and rather syrupy, an adjective that affects much of Wilson's work. A movie version, released in 1956 and starring Gregory Peck as Tom Rath, was also rather syrupy and dated. But again, enjoying the time capsule experience I sought out other works of Wilson's. "A Summer Place," a story about "an adult couple who rekindle a long-ago summer romance that ended because of class differences, and their two teenage children from other marriages who also fall in love with each other,"(lol) is another well-known (at the time) book of Wilson's that enjoyed success both in book and film form. It kind of sucked. And the fact that the movie starred Troy Donahue and Sandra Dee gives you an idea of the kind of corn-ball schlock one might expect from the film. But as I didn't really enjoy the book I haven't bothered to seek out the movie.
So what's my point? I don't know, but I was off to a hell of a start there.
I'll say two things in closing: Wilson's books are amusingly chauvinistic, written at a time when men tended to rule the roost, donning their gray flannels and white collars, arming themselves with ballpoint pens and dictaphones to do battle in downtown skyscrapers, while the wives tended to the roost and the children, making sure to have a cold pitcher of martini's ready upon her man's arrival. I recall a sentence from "A Sense of Values" about the man's wife going upstairs to pack his bags before he took a trip, "as was their custom." My grandmother used to do this for my grandfather, but they were born in the late 1800s. So I find his books amusing.
My other point is that, like Richard Yates, Wilson picked some God-awful titles for his books, titles that do not entice a reader to advance any further. To wit: Some of Yates's: "Young Hearts Crying" and "The Easter Parade." And in addition to those I've already mentioned, take a look at the photo above: "Georgie Winthrop." Really? "Georgie?" Ugh.
Actually, I have a third point: horrible book covers. Look at the cover above? I find that a scream. Georgie looks very worried about his feelings for young Charlotte. Does that stop him from banging her? Read the book and find out.
What else can I say? I'm enjoying his books. Sue me.