The Hundred Brothers: A Novel
|Publisher:||Crown Publishing Group (NY)|
There’s Rob, Bob, Tom, Paul, Ralph, and Phil; Siegfried, the sculptor in burning steel; blind Albert and ninety-three-year-old Hiram; Foster, the New Age psychoanalyst, and Maxwell, the tropical botanist, who, since returning from the rain forest, has seemed a little screwed up somehow. Donald Antrim assembles them—along with their eighty-nine equally eccentric brothers—in the decaying library of their family estate. Before cocktails are served, Maxwell is cataleptic, Virgil hysterical, and genealogist Doug has made off with doctor Barry’s medicine kit. Supper gives way to indoor football, a conversation with a dog, and ritual sacrifice.
There are, as the title says, one hundred brothers in Donald Antrim’s novel. This sprawling fraternity has gathered in the family library for a dinner and over the course of a few hours, the author serves up sibling rivalry, revelry, and mayhem in meticulous, unflappable style.
For the most part, The Hundred Brothers skates along on the strength of its comic ingenuity. Yet Antrim has some serious points to make about masculine pride, vanity, and terror—not by invoking them directly, but by inflating them to monstrous (and mirthful) proportions. And the narrator’s comments about his rampaging kin often have a larger, melancholic resonance to them. Indeed, when he points out “the complexities of our interdependence and the sorry indignities that pass as currency between us in lieu of gentler tender,” he might be talking about any family—even one in the single-digit range.