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The Night Listener: A Novel [Paperback]

Armistead Maupin
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 6 2001

"I'm a fabulist by trade," warns Gabriel Noone, a late-night radio storyteller, as he begins to untangle the skeins of his tumultuous life: his crumbling ten-year love affair, his disaffection from his Southern father, his longtime weakness for ignoring reality. Gabriel's most sympathetic listener is Pete Lomax, a thirteen-year-old fan in Wisconsin whose own horrific past has left him wise and generous beyond his years. But when this virtual father-son relationship is rocked by doubt, a desperate search for the truth ensues. Welcome to the complex, vertiginous world of The Night Listener....


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From Amazon

Many years ago, when the first volume of Tales of the City was going to press, Christopher Isherwood compared its author's narrative gifts to those of Charles Dickens. This has proven to be the blurb of a lifetime, an ever-renewable currency appearing on almost all of Armistead Maupin's subsequent books. Yet it has held up well--Dickens's gentle satire and broad good humor live on in Maupin more than in any other English-speaking writer. The Night Listener is his most ambitious work to date. While not strictly autobiographical, the story does teasingly suggest correspondences to the author's own life in a way that will delight and frustrate his many fans. The main character, Gabriel Noone, is a professional storyteller who broadcasts roughly autobiographical sketches for a long-running PBS series, "Noone at Night," stories about people "caught in the supreme joke of modern life who were forced to survive by making families of their friends." When the novel opens, Gabriel is still reeling from the announcement that his much younger, longtime partner Jess (a.k.a. Jamie in the "Noone at Night" stories, and a.k.a. Terry Anderson, Maupin's real-life, much-younger partner, for those who like to track associations) wants to move into his own apartment and start dating other men. With the success of his HIV cocktail, Jess has exceeded his own life expectancy. Having prepared himself so well to die, he now needs to learn how to live again. To Gabriel's distress, Jess's new life involves leather, multiple piercings, and books on men's drumming circles.

When an editor sends Gabriel yet another book to blurb, he reluctantly opens the package to find a long, rending memoir by Pete Lomax, an HIV-positive 13-year-old survivor of incest, rape, and sexual slavery. The book is called The Blacking Factory, after the miserable London bottling factory where Dickens spent part of his poverty-stricken childhood. As Gabriel reflects:

Pete thinks we all have a blacking factory, some awful moment, early on, when we surrender our childish hearts as surely as we lose our baby teeth. And the outcome can't be called. Some of us end up like Dickens; others like Jeffrey Dahmer. It's not a question of good or evil, Pete believes. Just the random brutality of the universe and our native ability to withstand it.
After Pete escaped from his parents and was adopted by a therapist named Donna Lomax, his slow recovery was helped along by his memoir-writing and by frequent doses of "Noone at Night."

Touched by Pete's devotion to his stories, as well as the boy's obvious need for a father figure, Gabriel finds himself drawn into an intense relationship with his young fan, involving long, late-night phone calls that begin to worry Gabriel's friends. And, other than their mutual need, how much does he really know about Pete, anyway? As Gabriel begins to question his own motives, as well as those of the boy, The Night Listener transforms itself from an absorbing but quotidian story of loss and midlife angst into a dark and suspenseful page-turner with a playful metaphysical aspect and an un-Dickensian sexual candor. --Regina Marler --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

The lines between reality and illusion are intriguingly blurred in this novel from the author of the Tales of the City series. Maupin also takes on various questions about how art imitates life, since there are many similarities here between author and protagonist. The deceptively simple story line concerns Gabriel Noone, a San Francisco radio personality whose "grabby little armchair yarns" have developed a cult following; indeed, the books based on these weekly NPR broadcasts "have never stopped selling." But Gabriel is experiencing severe writer's block as he endures an emotional crisis triggered by the decision of Jess, his longtime male companion, to separate: "I lost a vital engine I never even knew I had." When a manuscript sent to Gabriel for an endorsement turns out to be a harrowing memoir of sexual abuse written by a 13-year-old, he is moved to contact the precocious youngster. It seems that Gabriel has been an on-the-air lifeline for Peter Lomax, who has been adopted by a female doctor with some pressing problems of her own. This vulnerable threesome embark on a pas de trois that envelops the reader in an increasingly absorbing puzzle. Providing a moving counterpoint to Gabriel's growing attachment toAeven dependence onAPete is his inability to cope with his estrangement from Jess. As in his earlier works, reading Maupin's prose is like meeting up with a beloved old friend; it's an easy, uncomplicated encounter filled with warmth, wisdom and familiar touches of humor. But there's pathos here as well, and sharp-edged drama with a few hairpin turns. As Gabriel cautions, "I'm a fabulist by trade, so be forewarned: I've spent years looting my life for fiction." And what splendid booty GabrielAand MaupinAhave compiled for readers' enjoyment. 100,000 first printing; 16-city author tour. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
By Gail Cooke TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD
While the movie version of The Night Listener certainly didn't set any box office records, for this listener the audio rates high largely because of the affecting narration provided by author Armistead Maupin. This is a poignant story of a man who feels lost and unloved, and Maupin reads it with insight, illuminating the fears and doubts that possess protagonist Gabriel Noone.

Gabriel comes to life at night - he's a Manhattan based late hours radio host, Noone At Night. He's also a gay man who has broken up with his partner, Jess. After finding himself evidently free of the AIDS virus Jess wants more in life than he is finding with Gabriel. While Gabriel only wanted Jess. Especially vulnerable due to an abusive father who publicly ridiculed him and would never recognize his homosexuality, Gabriel is depressed and feels useless.

He seeks to assuage that feeling by connecting with a young fan, Pete Lomax, who lives in Wisconsin. Pete has suffered as much or more than Gabriel at the hands of physically abusive parents, and now in a struggle with AIDS. The two, Gabriel and Pete, quickly develop a warm, supportive father/son relationship all by telephone. Gabriel, of course, again feels needed.

Eventually, Gabriel decides to go to Wisconsin to see Pete. What he finds there is totally unexpected.

Those who enjoyed Tales of the City will once again find themselves enthralled by Maupin's prose. His voice is icing on the cake.

- Gail Cooke
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By binnsie
Format:Paperback
"The Night Listener" is one of those really good books, which gets progressively better as the story develops. The primary plot is about the relationship between late night radio host, Gabriel Noone, and a 13-year-old boy, Pete Lomax. Pete is suffering from AIDS as the innocent victim of serious and prolonged sexual assault propagated by his father and others. Donna Lomax, a lady doctor who Pete first talks to on a child abuse hot line, has adopted him and tries to give him the love and security to which every child is entitled. Pete has committed his sad tale to writing and sends the "set of bound galleys" (manuscript) to Gabriel Noone in whom he has developed a trust from listening to his nocturnal banter on the radio. They communicate by phone and soon reach a level of intimacy in which Pete refers to Noone as Dad. The trust is almost absolute and it is only when a tiny suspicion is fed to Noone by Jess (see below) that the seeds of doubt form in Noone's mind. Noone and Pete's relationship is based entirely on their phone calls, as the two have never actually met. Noone has frequent phone conversations with Donna too, building up another bond of trust and friendship. The plot develops wonderfully and this fictional part of the book is excellently put together.
In parallel with the main story line is the clearly autobiographical thread of Maupin's own life. There is the difficult relationship with his own father, an ageing homophobic man who won't acknowledge or discuss his feelings. There's his young stepmother and, as can often be the case, this is one tricky relationship. Then there is the recently ended long-term relationship with his partner Jess, a younger man who has turned to a more macho type of gayness.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wow Nov. 3 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Gabriel Noone is a self described "fabulist by trade". He is an openly gay San Francisco radio show host. His whole life changes when he recieves a package with a book in it. He has been asked to write a blurb for the back. This is nothing new to him and he expected not to even open the book at first. But with his life falling apart around him, he decides to read it. It is the autobiography of a 13 year old boy by the name of Pete Lomax. From early childhood Pete had been sexually abused by both his parents and and a ring of pedophiles from the Midwestern states. He meets this boy and becomes close friends with him, communicating only over the telephone. After questions arise to the authenticity of Pete, Gabriel begins his journey to prove that Pete is real once and for all.
This story is made up of many multi-dimensional characters that allow you to be completely engrossed in the story. Armistaud Maupin makes this book both disturbing and enlightening, light-hearted and dark, and both good clean fun and deeply sexual. The book is a relatively quick-read despite it's many pages of small type, the pages will fly by as you try to solve the mysteries of Pete's existence and that of Gabriel Noone's struggle to find himself.
I do not recommend this book to those who are not incredibly mature. Both because of the sexual references and because of the disturbing mystery of the book. I myself found my head spinning and had several sleepless nights before finishing the book. To those who are able I highly suggest this book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars "Elementary, my dear Watson." June 13 2003
Format:Paperback
Here we have a book by Mr. Maupin in which he lightly expands the world we came to know in his "Tales of the City" series. Characters from that series are present in the book, yes, but this doesn't detract from this new string. It's more like a little morsel for his faithful readers that, when they read, their eyes widen and they think, "Yeah!! I know that!!"
I read this book and was sucked into Gabriel's world with ease. The writing was fantastic, and the answer to the question on everyone's mind is played from every angle...if not in actual events, then in Gabriel's mind.
A mystery of a different kind (no one is killed, no crowned jewels are stolen), "The Night Listener" pulled me from one extreme of opinion to the other. By book's end, I was in awe with Maupin's ability to keep the reader guessing...even after the last word is read and the book is put down.
I give this book 4 stars because although I love the kind of ending that lets you write your own epilogue, I really wanted a definite answer to the questions that arose.
Nevertheless, this book was a great read!!
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars incredible
This was just an excellent book, so different from what else is out there to read. I recommend this book to anyone (unless you have a real problem with homosexuality). Read more
Published on March 29 2004 by michigan jean
2.0 out of 5 stars Not believable, except in parts
I found this book to be a fun read, but it's not a "masterpiece" or a "triumph." Even by Maupin's "Tale of the City" standards, this is a strangely unsatisfying novel. Read more
Published on Jan. 8 2004 by fml66
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping piece of literature window-dressed as mystery
*The Night Listener* is gripping from beginning to end. Literally I am glued to the page. Writer and radio storyteller Gabriel Noone just broke up with his partner Jess who battled... Read more
Published on March 11 2003 by Matthew M. Yau
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fast, Fun, Revealing Read
This is Maupin's first work in years, and while it's hard not to suspect autobiographical undercurrents - or surface currents, really - this does not distract from the overall... Read more
Published on Dec 21 2002 by "eabower"
4.0 out of 5 stars A sad yet beautiful book
I admit to preferring by far the Armistead Maupin who unravels the antics of Mrs Madrigal and her tenants. Read more
Published on Nov. 12 2002 by Ventura Angelo
5.0 out of 5 stars Kept me glued to the page
The Night Listener by Armistead Maupin
Based on a true-life event that happened to Armistead Maupin, THE NIGHT LISTENER chronicles the unusual relationship of author/radio... Read more
Published on Oct. 29 2002 by Ratmammy
4.0 out of 5 stars A subtle book not intended for shallow reading
If you want a novel with a straightforward exposition -- the written version of a made-for-TV movie -- then this is NOT the novel for you. Read more
Published on Oct. 22 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars I LAUGHED, I CRIED, ...
...and I enjoyed! This book was a fast read(3 hours) giving me a few starts, a couple of tears, several laughs and a desire to hug Armistead. Thanks Mr. M..
Published on Aug. 22 2002 by DANA L DODD
1.0 out of 5 stars Should be "Armistead Maudlin"
Maupin's protaganist (who is a thiny veiled version of Maupin, himself)worries that he will be discovered as a literary fraud. Read more
Published on Aug. 13 2002
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