Tuesday, August 27, 2013

& SONS: Famous Novelists Make The Worst Fathers

The opening scene of David Gilbert's fantastic new novel & Sons shows aging, reclusive novelist A.N. Dyer  forced to brave the outside world to deliver the eulogy at his life-long friend's funeral. But A.N. Dyer has barely slept the night before because he — a writer of some repute whose first novel, Ampersand, is now part of the canon — has stayed up all night searching for canned eulogies on the Internet. It's the first sign of many to follow of the sad state of Dyer's life — a revered writer plagiarizing his best friend's eulogy!

And from there, we follow Dyer's predictable and comic botch job of the eulogy, his sudden realization that his own days are numbered, and his attempt to reconcile with his two middle-aged sons, Richard and Jamie.

Oh, and there's the matter of A.N. Dyer's teenage son, Andy — whose birth, the result of an extramarital affair, ruined A.N. Dyer's marriage and estranged his other sons. Andy, attending Exeter Academy, as did his father and his older half-brothers, is, A.N. Dyer believes, his last chance to be a good father, as his other two sons, partially because he's always been a really crappy father, are kind of screwed up. And there's the small matter that they both hate him — partially because of Andy's existence. Richard has battled drug addiction his whole life, but has now settled down in California with a wife named Candy and two kids, and has spent 20 years not talking to his father. Jamie is a filmmaker, but he doesn't actually make films — he just shoots video — and kind of drifts around the world, surfacing in Brooklyn once in awhile.

There's a lot to this novel, both in terms of style and substance. There are long, delicious stream-of-consciousness passages. There are meditations on writing and fatherhood and life in New York and family dysfunction and tons of other things I love in novels. There is teenage angst, and a quest to get laid. There are Hollywood actors and drugs and sex. And there is the mother of all unexpected plot twists about halfway through the novel — which your willingness (or not) to accept this will dramatically influence how much you like this novel. I thought it was great, and I loved just about everything else about this book.

It's a novel that's in my absolute sweet spot of "novels I like" — it's a literary novel about writers and dysfunctional New York families. I think you'll like it, too, though. Highly recommended!

(Also, I don't know why, and probably there is no reason, but the three letters on the cover that are white, as opposed to the other yellow lettering, spell N-A-D. And I can't get past that, and because I'm 12, I giggle every time I pick up the book — because it reminds me of this. How about THAT for elevating the level of discourse for a literary novel?!)


  1. I would assume the white letters are A.N.D, the initials of the main character? Read across. :)

  2. I loved, loved, loved this book. I very fortunately received an ARC of this book and read it earlier this year. I have been judging every book I've read since then, against the awesomeness of this book. None have compared (OK maybe Lolita, which I just read for the first time). A very highly recommend.

  3. Hearing great things about this one. Love to find a book that will appeal to both my husband and me.

  4. Your review convinced me I need to find this book. Thx for the review!