Cover image for The night listener : a novel
The night listener : a novel
Maupin, Armistead.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperCollins, [2000]

Physical Description:
344 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Central Library
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Here is the much-anticipated new work from one of America's literary icons--a gripping novel of suspense that explores the boundaries of the human heart.

Gabriel Noone is a teller of tales, a writer whose cult-hit radio serial "Noone at Night" brought him into the homes of millions, including an ailing 13-year-old boy named Pete Lomax. Meeting through extraordinary circumstances, Noone develops a remarkable friendship with Pete, a connection that evolves into a profound mystery that will blur the lines between truth and illusion, and lead Noone to confront all of his relationships--familial, romantic, and erotic--knowledge that will alter his perception of himself and his life forever.

The Night Listener is Armistead Maupin's most ambitious and daringly imaginative novel, a tale that will challenge and move his many fans as never before

Author Notes

Armistead Maupin was born in Washington D.C. on May 13, 1944. He received a B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He served as a naval officer in the Mediterranean and with the River Patrol Force in Vietnam.

He worked as a reporter for a newspaper in Charleston, South Carolina, before being assigned to the San Francisco bureau of the Associated Press in 1971. In 1976, he launched his groundbreaking Tales of the City serial in the San Francisco Chronicle. The series describes a group of characters that live together in a boarding house in San Francisco. Eventually, these Tales were collected into a series of six novels. In 1993, the British Broadcasting Company adapted them for a television series that aired on PBS in 1994.

His other works include Maybe the Moon, Michael Tolliver Lives, and The Days of Anna Madrigal. The Night Listener was adapted into a movie starring Robin Williams and Toni Collette.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gay novelist Gabriel Noone is blue since his spouse, Jess, decamped to pursue his bliss among San Francisco's leather men. Indeed, Gabriel has writer's block, necessitating reruns of his weekly NPR storytelling feature. Then he gets the manuscript of a book to blurb. Written by a 13-year-old boy, Pete, it is the story of his long sexual abuse by his parents, who also peddled him to other pedophiles, and his eventual escape and adoption by a psychologist, only to fall ill with ever severer bouts of AIDS-related pneumonia. Impressed by the book, Gabriel is enchanted when his expressed interest in contacting Pete reaps a series of nighttime phone calls from the boy and his adoptive mother, Donna. Moreover, Gabriel falls like the proverbial ton of bricks when Pete starts calling him Dad. Gabriel must meet Pete in person, and Donna holds out hope that he will, but attempts to do so are thwarted. Actually, no one Gabriel and Donna both know has ever met Pete, and Jess, who gets a chance, arranged by Gabriel, to talk with both Donna and Pete, insists that they are one and the same. Others find Jess' speculation credible. Gabriel has to find out the truth, which, as is typical in Tales of the City creator Maupin's work, isn't necessarily what it seems and even flip-flops, seeming one thing and then another and yet another. Maupin's squeaky clean style, seductive sentimentality, and gift for disarming patter make for a most appealing read, a kind of, not magic realism, but pretty, magical melodrama. --Ray Olson

Publisher's Weekly Review

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 toÄeven dependence onÄPete 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 GabrielÄand MaupinÄhave compiled for readers' enjoyment. 100,000 first printing; 16-city author tour. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Gabriel Noone is a successful writer whose radio serial, Noone at Night, has brought him legions of fans and affectionate fame. But his long-term companion, Jess, has just left him, and he's a mess: he can't write, he can't communicate with his father, and he can't understand why Jess is suddenly changing. Enter a special fan, a sick 13-year-old boy who forms a deep connection with Gabriel over the radio and telephone. Peter Lomax was severely abused as a child but finds he can trust Gabriel, who in turn discovers he can open himself up to this amazing boy. However, Gabriel slowly begins to doubt his young friend, just as he has had to doubt other important figures in his life. While the novel centers on the mysterious Peter, Maupin's (Maybe the Moon) latest is less a suspense story than a likable tale about major and minor betrayals by lovers, friends, and family members. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/00.]DDevon Thomas, Hass Assocs., Ann Arbor, MI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



The Night Listener Chapter One Jewelling the Elephant I know how it sounds when I call him my son. There's something a little precious about it, a little too wishful to be taken seriously. I've noticed the looks on people's faces, those dim, indulgent smiles that vanish in a heartbeat. It's easy enough to see how they've pegged me: an unfulfilled man on the shady side of fifty, making a last grasp at fatherhood with somebody else's child.That's not the way it is. Frankly, I've never wanted a kid. Never once believed that nature's whim had robbed me of my manly destiny. Pete and I were an accident, pure and simple, a collision of kindred spirits that had nothing to do with paternal urges, latent or otherwise. That much I can tell you for sure. Son isn't the right word, of course. Just the only one big enough to describe what happened. I'm a fabulist by trade, so be forewarned: I've spent years looting my life for fiction. Like a magpie, I save the shiny stuff and discard the rest; it's of no use to me if it doesn't serve the geometry of the story. This makes me less than reliable when it comes to the facts. Ask Jess Carmody, who lived with me for ten years and observed this affliction firsthand. He even had a name for it'The Jewelled Elephant Syndrome'after a story I once told him about an old friend from college. My friend, whose name was Boyd, joined the Peace Corps in the late sixties. He was sent to a village in India where he fell in love with a local girl and eventually proposed to her. But Boyd's blue-blooded parents back in South Carolina were so aghast at the prospect of dusky grandchildren that they refused to attend the wedding in New Delhi. So Boyd sent them photographs. The bride turned out to be an aristocrat of the highest caste, better bred by far than any member of Boyd's family. The couple had been wed in regal splendor, perched atop a pair of jewelled elephants. Boyd's parents, imprisoned in their middle-class snobbery, had managed to miss the social event of a lifetime. I had told that story so often that Jess knew it by heart. So when Boyd came to town on business and met Jess for the first time, Jess was sure he had the perfect opener. "Well," he said brightly, "Gabriel tells me you got married on an elephant."Boyd just blinked at him in confusion. I could already feel myself reddening. "You weren't?" "No," Boyd said with an uncomfortable laugh. "We were married in a Presbyterian church." Jess said nothing, but he gave me a heavy-lidded stare whose meaning I had long before learned to decipher: You are never to be trusted with the facts. In my defense, the essence of the story had been true. Boyd had indeed married an Indian girl he had met in the Peace Corps, and she had proved to be quite rich. And Boyd's parents'who were, in fact, exceptionally stuffy'had always regretted that they'd missed the wedding. I don't know what to say about those elephants, except that I believed in them utterly. They certainly never felt like a lie. More like a kind of shorthand for a larger, less satisfying truth. Most stories have holes in them that cry out for jewelled elephants. And my instinct, alas, is to supply them. I don't want that to happen when I talk about Pete. I will try to lay out the facts exactly as I remember them, one after the other, as unbejewelled as possible. I owe that much to my son'to both of us, really'and to the unscripted intrigues of everyday life.But, most of all, I want you to believe this.And that will be hard enough as it is. I wasn't myself the afternoon that Pete appeared. Or maybe more severely myself than I had ever been. Jess had left me two weeks earlier, and I was raw with the realization of it. I have never known sorrow to be such a physical thing, an actual presence that weighed on my limbs like something wet and woolen. I couldn't write'or wouldn't, at any rate'unable to face the grueling self-scrutiny that fiction demands. I would feed the dog, walk him, check the mail, feed myself, do the dishes, lie on the sofa for hours watching television. Everything seemed pertinent to my pain. The silliest coffee commercial could plunge me into profound Chekhovian gloom. There was no way around the self-doubt or the panic or the anger. My marriage had exploded in midair, strewing itself across the landscape, and all I could do was search the rubble for some sign of a probable cause, some telltale black box. The things I knew for sure had become a litany I recited to friends on the telephone: Jess had taken an apartment on Buena Vista Park. He wanted space, he said, a place to be alone. He had spent a decade expecting to die, and now he planned to think about living. (He could actually do that, he realized, without having to call it denial.) He would meditate and read, and focus on himself for once. He couldn't say for sure when he'd be back, or if he'd ever be back, or if I'd even want him when it was over. I was not to take this personally, he said; it had nothing to do with me. Then, after stuffing his saddlebags full of protease inhibitors, he pecked me solemnly on the lips and mounted the red motorcycle he had taught himself to ride six months earlier. I'd never trusted that machine. Now, as I watched it roar off down the hill, I realized why: It had always seemed made for this moment . . . The Night Listener . Copyright © by Armistead Maupin. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.