The Prose Practice: Lonely Men in Cardigans

From yesterday’s erotica to something almost polar opposite, though maybe actually not if these cardi-clad men are very lonely, anyway… I mentioned earlier in the week that your advice would be called upon, as unwitting participants of The Prose Practice, not once but twice and so here is a rather unusual and utterly brilliant question from a new reader of the blog all the way on the other side of the world to me in Australia. Can you all help with some suggestions for some masculine reading material that might involve lonely men in cardigans though not necessarily read by them. I have so far only come up with one and its not one I have read so I could be barking up the wrong tree completely.


Greetings from Australia. I am a new reader of your splendid blog.  I am especially interested in novels which I can only describe as examining the Male version of Anita Brookner’s characters [I have already posted about her on your site] – that is, men of a certain age who have lost their way, given up hope or just accept the general tragedy of ageing with stubborn stoicism or sad irony. This is an unexplored genre. I seek recommendations from you and your bloggers. Where are the novels dealing with lonely, single men in cardigans?

Norman, Australia


Simon Says: Hmmm… books about lonely single men in cardigans. (Can I just say trendy men in their late twenties – and younger – now where cardigans too in fact I have been known to don one, ha!) Well the one that instantly came to my mind isn’t one that I have read and so I could frankly be completely wrong with my suggestion. However the book that I did think of was Man Booker winning ‘Last Orders’ by Graham Swift. It’s a book that I have sat in the TBR and may now very well have to read having gone off and read the synopsis. I am not sure that it’s quite the right suggestion?

What say all of you readers out there?


Filed under The Prose Practise

27 responses to “The Prose Practice: Lonely Men in Cardigans

  1. There’s a wonderful novel by Bruce Chatwin called On the Black Hill, which is about two elderly brothers — although they live together, I think this would fit the bill as it certainly deals with loneliness and ageing. And Rose Tremain’s new novel, Trespass, is about a man in his 60s looking for a new meaning in his life. I haven’t read this yet but heard RT talking about it at a literary festival recently — also sounds like the right kind of book.

    • Norman

      Thanks so much for that..will definitely try the Tremain. Have you read Chatwin’s “Utz” – stunning!

  2. How about Mr Golightly’s Holiday by Salley Vickers? I hated it, but I don’t think I enjoy reading about men in cardigans!!

  3. Disturbing the Peace by Richard Yates would be an interesting read about a middle aged man having a crisis and losing the plot…well, anything by Richard Yates, really, would fit the bill!

  4. bookgazing

    The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler would be perfect (I always imagine him in a cardigan) and although I didn’t like it ‘The Understudy’ by David Nichols bits the bill (not very good actor struggles to be a good dad and find a new relationship).

  5. How about The Sea The Sea by Iris Murdoch, read a long time ago but I seem to recall the protagonist being an elderly fella, lots of details about lonely meals….

  6. I can’t think of any, but… I am wearing a cardigan! (And I’m single… so maybe I just need to pen my autobiog for Norman…)

    • Norman

      Simon, your autobio would be most welcome 🙂 Anything from a cardigan-wearing, Christian, book-loving Doctoral candidate would be just perfect.Oh what Barbara Pym could have done with that narrative!

      PS Enjoy your blog very much.

  7. winstonsdad

    oh sort of morrisey of books er ……. siltoe works ,maybe mills books there about being in a different situation and alone three to see th king in particular ,haaving not read brookner hard to say ,hunger hamsum is a artist descending in tom madness most alone ,suppose there is book of shorts storys based on smiths lyrics would have storys about men in cardigans lol and a google search of books mention by morrisey would turn up gold i would imagine ,all the best stu

  8. Donnafugata

    How about NIght Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier? Seems to fit the bill, though can’t remember a cardigan….

  9. Hmmmm. Tricky one. Maybe The Sea by John Banville, though that is more reflective than resigned. Everyman by Philip Roth features a resigned crankster, but somewhat older than a middle-aged donner of cardigans. Kinda stumped here.

  10. Bet

    Here’s my list:
    Out Stealing Horses by Per Peterson
    The Book of Ebenezer LePage by G B Edwards
    A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin
    Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson
    Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

    I would second On the Black Hill– very enjoyable! and The Accidental Tourist. I’m sure I’ve read more than this, but I can’t remember any more at the moment. Happy Reading!

  11. Is a man in his mid forties too young to qualify? If not, then there is a character in a novel I am currently reading who may fit the bill. “Giving Up On Ordinary” by Isla Dewar is principally about a woman tyring to get her life back on track following a divorce and the death of one of her children, as such it may seem an unlikely suggestion in this context. However, Gilbert, one of the leading male characters, is a lonely man who has lost his way. He is forever apologising to everyone he meets and still appears to be haunted by his over-bearing mother with whom he is barely in contact. There’s no specific mention of cardigans featuring in his wardrobe, but fun is poked at his dress sense and hairstyle.

    I should probably add that stylistically this book is quite a far throw from Brookner. It is more like Muriel Spark meets chick lit.

  12. Norman

    Thanks a lot. I have read nothing by Dewar but the plot sounds intriguing. Not many match Brookner’s style today. She is certainly an acquired taste – the asparagus of literature. I love it!

    Also enjoy your blog.

  13. Norman

    Greetings again Simon. Many thanks for drawing attention to my enquiry. I have had some marvellous suggestions from you and your bloggers about “cardiganed men”. The cardigan itself in these novels almost becomes a visual metaphor for quiet resignation. Was it Thoreau who said “we all lead lives of quiet desperation”? The ill-fitting, body-warped cardigan of lost men seems to clariy this for me.

    • Hey Norman, hope this gave you some insightful reading to get on with, it was a great question! I meant to add Homer and Langley which is a superb, superb book and has two cardigan clad brothers.

  14. Obvious, Simon: The Talented Mr. Ripley!

  15. “Lonely man in cardiga” instantly makes me think of A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood. I’m pretty sure I saw Firth rock a couple cardis, anyway.

  16. Pingback: The Prose Practice Returns; Help Aunty Alice… | Savidge Reads

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