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2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 2.00 (101 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Jon-Jon Goulian Narrator: Rob Shapiro Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: May 2011 ISBN: 9780307876751
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The vibrant, funny, and heartwarming story of an outcast who becomes an odd man in
 
If you have ever felt like a misfit in school or been paralyzed by your family’s imposing expectations, if you have ever obsessed about your appearance or panicked about choosing a career path, if you have ever wondered if every single thing to which your body is exposed, from egg yolks to X-rays, might harm you, then you may be surprised to find a kindred spirit in The Man in the Gray Flannel Skirt.

Growing up in sunny La Jolla, California, Jon-Jon Goulian was a hyperneurotic kid who felt out of place wherever he turned, and who, in his own words, was forever on the verge of “caving in beneath the pressures of modern life.” From his fear of competition to his fear of pimples, from his fear of sex to his fear of saturated fat, the range and depth of Jon-Jon’s phobias were seemingly boundless. With his two older brothers providing a sterling example he believed he could never live up to, and his stern grandfather, the political philosopher Sidney Hook, continually calling him to account for his intellectual failure, Jon-Jon, feeling pressed against the wall, wracked with despair, and dizzy with insecurity, instinctively resorted, for reasons that became clear to him only many years later, to a most ingenious scheme for keeping conventional expectations at bay: women’s clothing! Ingenious, perhaps, but woefully ineffective, as Jon-Jon discovers, again and again, that behind his skirt, leggings, halter top, and high heels, he’s still as wildly neurotic, and as wracked with anxiety, as he’s always been.

In this hilarious and heartfelt memoir, Jon-Jon Goulian’s witty and exuberant voice shines through, as he comes to terms with what it means to truly be yourself.


From the Hardcover edition. Download and start listening now!

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Is there anybody more likable than Jon-Jon Goulian? Toned, tanned, bedaubed with fantastic eye makeup—the first and only cross-dresser ever to have worked at The New York Review of Books—Mr. Goulian has made friendliness his life's work, tricking successive generations of newcomers into thinking that the New York literary world is populated with attractive and unusual people....A Gen-X update on an archetype we associate most readily with Woody Allen, [he] offers himself as 'a neurasthenic man' in a 'city of horrors,' terrified of moths, sex, saturated fat, the draft, Central Park, taxi cabs and high-school reunions. If Woody Allen were a cross-dresser from La Jolla, is this who he’d be? New York Observer

  • For anyone who’s ever felt like no one in a world that demands we all be someone, here it is: the psychedelically neurotic account, painfully brave and punishingly funny, of one human being’s long struggle to make his outsides match his unclassifiable insides. Walter Kirn, author of Lost in the Meritocracy

    “Never have I read a fish-out-of-water story that had me so instantly and irrevocably enamored with the fish.
  • [Goulian’s] life is one many would consider a success....yet this book isn’t just about his triumphs. It’s also about his struggles to come of age in a world in which he doesn’t fit....It is his voice, with its wryly humorous, slightly self-deprecating tone, that engages the reader. Booklist
  • A sassy, outspoken narrative [that] gets kudos for its droll frankness. Kirkus
  • This is a book that will fill you with laughter, pity, identification, and admiration; it might also show you how to be a man. If Jon-Jon Goulian did not exist, it would have been necessary to invent him. Benjamin Kunkel, author of Indecision
  • "Jon-Jon Goulian manages to pull off the hardest thing to do when writing about yourself, which is being totally candid yet also compassionate.  It’s hard to imagine anyone not loving this book, but everyone who’s ever felt like a freak will find it especially cheering, affirming, heartrending, and hilarious. Emily Gould, author of And the Heart Says Whatever
  • Jon-Jon Goulian’s journey from strange young man to stranger older man is tender, sweet, and very readable. One wishes him and his koala bear hand puppet, Mr. Marvel, a life of love and happiness. Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story
  • “I read this book in a single, thrilling sitting. It’s beautifully written, extremely moving, and, most important, funny as hell! Simon Rich, author of Elliot Allagash
  • You can't read this book without falling a little bit in love with Jon-Jon Goulian.  Suddenly, at the age of 40, after not having published a word his whole life, he gives us one of the funniest, saddest, and most exquisitely crafted books about a dysfunctional neurotic ever written. Katie Roiphe, author of Uncommon Arrangements

    “Jon-Jon Goulian is beautifully, unabashedly himself as The Man in the Gray Flannel Skirt.
  • A hilariously neurotic trip down the rabbit hole that is both a baffling series of oddities and an endearing, relatable sashay to self-acceptance – sometimes on the same page. Walking a mile in the first-time author’s leather pumps will make anyone feel normal – not because he’s so bizarre, but because, underneath all the protective armor – the eyeliner, the chandelier earrings, the ever-climbing neck tattoos – he’s just like us. Modern Tonic
  • Goulian writes poignantly about reconciling a law degree with a penchant for wearing women’s clothing. Entertainment Weekly
  • Some people have to dare to be original, but Jon-Jon Goulian would have to try hard to be normal. As the lawyer he is might say: he is sui generis. Read this book, and live a little. Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of Prozac Nation

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Cory | 2/17/2014

    " This is an interesting memoir. It was a quick read for non-fiction. I did find parts of it too whiny, but it never lost my attention. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Gabrielle | 2/14/2014

    " This book was so enticing -- a great title, a super author photo on the rear cover, and a sassy introduction. Several chapters made me think of David Sedaris' wit and self-deprecating humor. I was even drawn in by a direct reference to my x-sister-in-law's-sister (confusing...). None of this, however, was strong enough to make me really excited about reading 200+ pages of why some 40-something man never got his shit together. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Wendi | 2/4/2014

    " Well write review when publish date comes "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dylan | 1/31/2014

    " I won this book from a giveaway and I entered it for no reason other than the title caught my eye. Not knowing what the book would be about I started it ready for anything, and what I got was nothing I was expecting. The Man in the Gray Flannel Skirt is a memoir, each chapter opening with something happening in his life, and then quickly shifting to something else from his past that relates to the theme of that chapter. While this did lead me to expecting what was coming next I really did like the way he wrote his story. In the beginning few chapters of the book I began to wonder why he wrote a memoir, what had he done? I realized then at the end that thats just it, he hadn't "done" anything, he just lived how he wanted and that led him to have one of the most interesting lives (with a somewhat exception of one chapter, which was a bit uncomfortable to read but still interesting!) I have ever read about. That is what I have taken from this story, live how you want and its never too late to change your life. I extremely enjoyed reading about his life, excellent book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Meredith Wong | 1/26/2014

    " Not for the anxiety-prone, but for those who are certainly going somewhere and uncertain of their direction. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bonnie1750 | 1/25/2014

    " This is Jon-Jon Goulian's first book. On some level we can all identify with the boy growing up and trying to fit in. This is a well written and fun book to read. I hope he continues to write. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bob Lopez | 1/20/2014

    " Great book! What a down-to-earth guy he is; more so, even, because of his raging insecurities...he's beyond grounded, he's downright catatonic. There is very little that is unusual about Jon-Jon apart from his name and how he chooses to dress himself. Life has been a struggle, a competition between what is expected of him and what he is capable of...the sad part is that he often takes himself out of the fight, for fear of failure, fear of not living up, or for the sake of fear itself. He's a germaphobe of the highest order and I can almost feel the bland food to which he grew accustomed. His relationship with his family is endearing, and I appreciate that he wasn't a malcontent for the sake of being one. He just spent a lot of his time being misunderstood, I think. Great book. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Keir Haug | 1/16/2014

    " I did not finish this book. I found it to be quite boring and lacking any insight into gender issues or life in general. Meh! "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 dana | 12/19/2013

    " No substance here. None. :( "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sarah | 12/19/2013

    " Goulian is a very good writer and this book is entertaining in a kind of , but ultimately I didn't get too much out of it substance-wise. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Laura | 12/18/2013

    " I enjoyed Goulian's wittiness and his prose, but in the end it was just TMI. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mia | 11/19/2013

    " ok, i'm biased. i am the 'woman in whose living room [jon-jon] lived behind a curtain on the lower east side. jon-jon is the most unique person i've ever met--also one o the most brilliant. and i thoroughly recommend you read his story, as you'll never read anything else quite like it. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Ellen | 5/19/2012

    " It's not required by law that people tangentially related to publishing in New York have to read this book. I just want to put that out there. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Shannon Baas | 3/27/2012

    " I found this was a very strange book. I would not recommend it to anyone. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Deborah | 3/9/2012

    " Jon-Jon Goulian's conversational style is very enjoyable and his neuroses are very sympathetic. He writes about growing up as the third child in a high-achieving family, and how he didn't live up to his family's expectations. It was interesting to read about body dysmorphia from a male perspective. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Manintheboat | 11/6/2011

    " Poor cyclical writing that never goes anywhere or says anything. Boring. Pathetic. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Ellen | 6/1/2011

    " It's not required by law that people tangentially related to publishing in New York have to read this book. I just want to put that out there. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bonnie1750 | 4/11/2011

    " This is Jon-Jon Goulian's first book. On some level we can all identify with the boy growing up and trying to fit in. This is a well written and fun book to read. I hope he continues to write. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Wendi | 4/11/2011

    " Well write review when publish date comes "

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About the Narrator

Rob Shapiro is an actor and Earphones Award–winning narrator. He performed several seasons of radio comedy on Minneapolis Public Radio and voiced the titular lion in Leo the Lion. He is a musician and composer with his critically acclaimed band Populuxe. He is also a business consultant and software system designer.