Sloan Wilson 1920–
American novelist, short story writer, and autobiographer.
Wilson is the author of traditional novels of middle-class America. He is best known for his 1955 novel The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, a work which portrays the struggles of the "average" businessman as he makes compromises in pursuit of the American dream of success. The novel became a best-seller and gave the American public a symbol for the big-city businessman with a suburban home and family. Wilson's main character, Tom Rath, is very aware of his conformity and the sacrifices he is making to achieve his goal. The novel touches upon the experiences of countless young men who faced the business world after World War II. As Herbert Gold has written, the novel "entered the collective soul of the middle class."
Wilson's other popular novel, A Summer Place (1958), deals with the nouveau riche who spend the summer months at Pine Island, off the coast of Maine. Through his portrayal of the complicated love affairs of two teenagers and their parents, Wilson shows the stereotypical problems of their class: alcoholism, infidelity, ennui. Yet his novel has a happy ending, a resolution some critics denounced as unrealistic and oversimplified.
The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit II (1983) is a sequel to Wilson's earlier success. It continues Tom Rath's story in 1963, when his boss is chosen to serve as chairman of a White House conference on mental health. As his assistant, Rath finds himself in Washington, heading towards a promising future. With the assassination of President Kennedy, however, the project is abandoned and Rath faces major career decisions. His personal life also becomes complicated. But again, everything is resolved neatly and Rath's life and new career look extremely hopeful.
According to Wilson, his books end happily because his own problems were miraculously resolved and he says many readers tell him his books mirror their lives. He maintains that he shows a broad picture of America, for, as he says: "America is business." The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit and A Summer Place were adapted to film in 1956 and 1959, respectively.
Wilson is currently serving as a consultant to Philip Crosby Associates, Management Consultants, in Winter Park, Florida. He is using his experience as the basis for a nonfiction work, The New Executive.
(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 1-4, rev. ed. and Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 1.)