The Hundred Brothers by Donald Antrim
Source – review Copy
Donald Antrim is a name that I’ve had on the very edge of my radar to read ,for a number of years .He is often mentioned as a post modernist writer,as I have really enjoyed the other writers from the post modernist Cannon I have read and am always keen to try new ones .I felt I would like Antrim’s work .So when these two new reissues from Granta dropped through my door I was happy to finally get the chance to saviour his work and that is what I did saviour him .Donald Antrim is an American writer who lives in New York ,he published his first novel in 1993 this the hundred brothers was his second book .He contributes to the New Yorker and lives in New York.He was on the twenty best writers under forty list published in the New Yorker in 1999 a list that included people such as Saunders ,Foster Wallace,Diaz and Lahiri to name a few .
My brothers Rob ,Bob ,Tom,Paul ,Ralph ,Phil,Noah ,William,Nick,Dennis,Christopher,Frank ,Simon,Saul ,Jim,Henry…………………..(so on ) all born on the same day,the twenty-third of May ,though at different hours in separate years .
The strange brothers gather together .
So to the book The Hundred brothers is a story of a meeting of Hundred brothers ,well actually ninety-nine as one can’t make it .They have come together for annual meeting of the brothers and to have a meal and do a yearly ritual .Doug is our guide to this hectic group of brothers he seems one of the saner brothers .We get told via Doug who is who ,the blind brother ,,the depressed brother ,the recovering addict ,botanist and so on .This is a strange bunch ,as the night progress chaos and madness start to descend on them .The brothers almost represent a cross-section of america .We also see what happens when people are overshadowed by a domineering father ,The brothers all seem to have a bit of something missing that thing that controls people in everyday life have ,how will this night end will the be 99 brothers ?Whose is the dog that keeps running through the room ? how many Doug’s have there been ?
Other brothers converged in a circle ringing the fighters .No one butting in ,yet ;experience has proved that it is best to let physical disputes resolve themselves on the spot ,rather than interrupt and create additional frustrations and the lasting grudges that accompany smoldering tensions – unless the peril of injury .
A fight breaks out between the a pair of brothers .
The hundred brothers is one of those books it is hard to pigeon-hole ,like most of the other post modern books I ve read it seems to transcend usual fiction genres .After reading it I was struck by the brilliance of Antrim he writes novels that feel like Barthelme short stories that have been given a course of steroids to pump them up too a novel .I felt this book would make a great episode of the Simpsons it has a mix of wit and darkness they capture so well sometimes .It did in fact remind me a bit of the episode where Homer was given a magic hammock that meant he could clone himself and he did ending up with endless slight copies of himself .Which bring total chaos to Springfield when the pack of Homers gets on the loose in Springfield ,rather like the brothers on the lose in the big hall .The other thing I was reminded of is the film by Luis Bunuel the exterminating angel where a dinner party descends into chaos as the guest are trapped in a room .There is a great intro by Jonathan Frantzen where he picks out the wonderful line “I love my brothers and I hate their guts “.Very apt we can’t choose are families can we ?
Have you read his books ?