Reading guide for The Night Listener by Armistead Maupin

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Night Listener

by Armistead Maupin

The Night Listener
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Sep 2000, 192 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2001, 352 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Introduction
The narrator of The Night Listener is Gabriel Noone, a late-night radio storyteller who has risen to national fame in San Francisco. Having just separated from his lover of ten years, Noone is adrift in pain and confusion when he receives unexpected comfort from a thirteen-year-old fan in Wisconsin. Pete Lomax, a gifted writer himself, has somehow survived--and skillfully recorded--a life of unimaginable abuse. Wise beyond his years, he becomes a sort of surrogate son to the storyteller through a series of long distance phone calls. But, just as the clouds begin to part for Gabriel, a question arises that casts doubt upon the very existence of this miracle child. Desperate for the truth, Gabriel begins an odyssey that will throw his own stormy relationships--familial, romantic, and erotic--into sharp perspective. A personal saga that turns into a mystery that turns back into a personal saga again, The Night Listener keeps us guessing as it keeps us reading. Along the way Maupin brilliantly explores the question of how we tell stories, to whom, and why.


Questions for Discussion
  1. In the first chapter Gabriel tells us about "the Jewelled Elephant Syndrome," his tendency to embellish stories to make them more complete and satisfying. Do you think this is a conscious act? To what extent does it affect his relationship with Jess? With his father? Does it ultimately make us question Gabriel's reliability as a narrator?

  2. Some readers have noted Gabriel's resemblance to Maupin himself, a writer who gained prominence as a serial storyteller. Is he inviting us to speculate about the truth of this novel even as we consider the truth of Pete's story? Are we meant to wonder if Maupin actually had such a friendship with such a boy? And if he did, why would he not write a nonfiction book about it? Is he, like Gabriel, using fiction "to fix the things that have to be fixed"?

  3. Throughout the novel Maupin continually blurs the line between reality and illusion. Gabriel's bookkeeper, Anna, was a character in Maupin's Tales of the City series, so we're confronted here with the incongruity of an author (Maupin) conversing with one of his own fictional creations. Will and Jamie, the gay couple in Gabriel's "Noone at Night," are meant to represent Gabriel and Jess, just as Gabriel and Jess are apparently modeled on Maupin and his ex-lover Terry Anderson. What do you think the author intended by these disorienting layers of fact and invention? Is he just having fun with his own lore? Or is he suggesting that only emotional truths are of real importance?

  4. Did Pete's language and insights strike you as overly mature? Were you suspicious of him before Jess raised the issue, or did you share Gabriel's outrage at the suggestion of a hoax? How do you explain Gabriel's inertia when it came to uncovering the truth?

  5. How do long-held secrets and tensions between fathers and sons affect the narrative of The Night Listener?

  6. Did Donna's motherly protectiveness strike you as overzealous? Is it plausible that she would go to such great lengths to protect Pete from exposure at the expense of his literary success? Did her attitude towards Gabriel in their face-to-face meeting seem appropriately righteous, or false? Why?

  7. There are at least six deaths and two resurrections in The Night Listener? How did each of them affect Gabriel's sense of abandonment and loss? Did Pete's resurrection give you hope for his existence or finally confirm him as a figment of Donna's imagination? Pap's resurrection at the end of the novel seems to imply that Gabriel invented his father's deathbed scene in order to reconcile with him through storytelling. Did you wonder if Armistead Maupin was attempting the same thing in The Night Listener?

  8. Maupin has said that The Night Listener is, in part, "about the power of the human voice and its capacity to comfort and seduce us." Does that apply to Pete or Gabriel or both of them? To whom does the novel's title refer?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Harper Perennial. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Opposite of Everyone
by Joshilyn Jackson

"Quirky and appealing characters, an engaging story, and honest dialogue make this a great book!"
- BookBrowse

About the book
Join the discussion!

Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: All We Have Left
    All We Have Left
    by Wendy Mills
    September 11, 2001 is a date that few Americans will ever forget. It was on this day that our ...
  • Book Jacket: A Great Reckoning
    A Great Reckoning
    by Louise Penny
    Canadian author Louise Penny is back with her twelfth entry in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache ...
  • Book Jacket: Homegoing
    Homegoing
    by Yaa Gyasi
    It's all very well to challenge people to be the masters of their own destiny, but when you&#...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Victoria
    by Daisy Goodwin

    Daisy Goodwin breathes new life into Victoria's story, and does so with sensitivity, verve, and wit." - Amanda Foreman

    Read Member Reviews

Who Said...

There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are either well written or badly written. That is all.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

The Big Holiday Wordplay:
$400+ in Prizes

Enter Now

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.