In Merele's door-stopper of a social-commentary novel, the well-named Joshua Bland is our protagonist, and the book is framed as his tape recorded account of his life prior to his suicide. Bland is a character who might be identified today as suffering from a mild form of Asperger's. He is, indeed, bland, but he his also brilliant, a former child prodigy, and WW II hero, and theatrical producer. It is, one would think, a life that would make for interesting reading, particularly given Bland's acerbic wit. However, it felt flat to me, and overlong (at 523 pages). Nothing is left out, or at least it felt like nothing was left out. And Bland likes few people, and loves none, or so it seems. He is a creature of maladies, both psychological and sociological. His mother is narcissistic and distant, his step-father a con man, his first wife a clawing social climber and dreadful mother . . . and so on. They are all, of course, metaphors for the inane hollowness of modern American life and while Bland can tell the nasty from the nice, he thwarts every effort by others to love him, being incapable of the emotion himself, and manages to push everyone away, including his second wife, whom he believes to be his last chance at a fulfilling life -- hence the intention to commit suicide. Merle's writing is clever and full of wit and he does a fine job at revealing the hollow core of the American dream -- but because the central character was so locked-down emotionally, although I felt pity for him, I never truly cared about him, and that ultimately was too large a flaw for the book to be totally satisfying, no matter how smart it was.