Allen Wheelis was born in 1915 and has already authored a dozen books. The Listener is only the fourth one that I have read, and although it is beautifully written, I think it would be hard to imagine that any book might be more grim. Looking back over his long life, Wheelis still seems caught in the years of his early childhood. We are told once again, as in The Quest for Identity (1), how his father one summer made him cut the grass with a straight razor. And there is quite a bit about his mother, who lived to the age of 100 years. Getting that old does not make for a pretty picture, and Wheelis is unsparing in his description of the approach of death. Throughout The Listener one has the feel of an author who is able successfully to describe the lack of success. Despite occasional moments of reports of happiness, what came through to me was an almost overwhelmingly bleak account of the author’s coping with the apparent meaninglessness of existence.