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& Sons by David Gilbert
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& Sons (2013)

by David Gilbert

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4075226,158 (3.5)1 / 21
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Showing 1-5 of 53 (next | show all)
I am feeling a little bit overwhelmed with books about the artistic/literary elite of New York. This is intentionally self referential, imagining an alternative Catcher in the Rye, written by a rather more visible and prolific writer, and then imaging his relationships with his family in a way that is both naturalistic and startling. It's a perfectly enjoyable read. It's funny in places, with that sort of set piece comedy that certainly goes back to Lucky Jim; it has the focus on non metropolitan lives that might recall Franzen; the high school pastiche that takes us into Irving, sittenfeld, and of course Salinger. It's a very masculine book - fathers and sons firmly in the foreground; wives, daughters and women marginal to the picture. It's cinematic and visual. It talks frankly and elliptically about death. I kept wanting more, however, some kind of sincerity or reality, rather than this ever complicating and evolving artifice and multiplicity
  otterley | Apr 7, 2016 |
All the characters are engaging.
Somehow, I was just starting to feel bored with these engaging characters when ...
A well-timed twist made a masterful appearance to carry me happily to the end of the book. ( )
  BridgitDavis | Feb 14, 2016 |
This 2014 novel was named a “best book of the year” by many reviewers, and it’s full of richness on every page. A literary novel in every sense, it’s about an aging Manhattan author and notorious recluse, A.N.Dyer, whose failing faculties compel him to call his sons to him and in other ways try to straighten out the tangle he’s made of his life.
His two older sons are estranged both from him and each other. Jamie is a filmmakers living on the East Coast who’s just completed a dubious project documenting, perhaps too rigorously, life’s final decay. Richard is a struggling Los Angeles-based screenwriter, who has the prospect of long-awaited success dangled in front of him if only he can deliver the impossible-to-get film rights to his father’s first and most important novel, Ampersand.
The third, much younger son, is 17-year-old Andy. (You’ll have noticed A.N.Dyer, Andy, Ampersand, and the book’s title). Andy is ostensibly the product of a liaison between Dyer and a Swedish nanny. The arrival in the household of baby Andy and the story of his conception ended Dyer’s marriage. But the real story of Andy’s origins are more significant than anyone but Dyer knows, and he’s summoned Jamie and Richard to New York to tell it. And to enlist them in ensuring to Andy’s future welfare, should he die.
Throughout, as a sort of shambling Greek chorus is Philip Topping, son of Dyer’s oldest friend, Charlie, whose funeral opens the book. Philip is the same age as the two older sons, and they’ve obviously never had much use for him and still don’t, even though he’s ensconced in Dyer’s East 70th Street apartment, the flotsam washed ashore from a foundering marriage. Topping is a “Mr. Cellophane”; they look right through him and never know he’s there. Or, as Philip himself says, “I’m guilty of easily falling in love, of confusing the abstract with the concrete, hoping those words might cast me as a caring individual and dispel my notions of a sinister center. I believe in love at first sight so that I might be seen.” But the Dyers don’t see him, even when it’s necessary they should.
Dyer’s clean-up of his affairs includes selling his papers to the Morgan Library, and they, like the Hollywood manipulators, are interested in Ampersand. They will sweeten their offer considerably if he includes a draft of it. Alas, he destroyed all the drafts years before, so is pushed into the insupportable position of having to retype the whole manuscript, inserting awkward phrases and misdirected text, which he crosses out to arrive at the version in the published book.
It’s a very New York book, with apt references not just to places and events but to the way the city and its citizens go about their business. All this seems sly and perfectly grounded. Here are a few sentences from the Morgan Library rep’s pitch to Dyer:
"In my biased view, we are the intellectual heart of this city. A visitor from another planet would do well to visit here first in order to understand our human narrative. We also have a tremendous gift shop."
Dyer’s agent then suggests they’ve been approached by the University of Texas’s Harry Ransom Center with a much more generous offer, and receives this response, which manages to insult everyone:
"If money’s the bottom line, we can’t possibly compete. Ransom and their ilk will always win. And they are a fine institution and Austin is a fine central Texas town. But if you want to maximize profits, may I suggest breaking up the archive and selling the pieces in lots. But if respect, sensitivity, geo . . ."
Philip Topping is everywhere and nowhere in the book, as its part-time narrator. It also includes excerpts (freshly typed!) from Ampersand—a vicious tale indeed—correspondence between Dyer and Topping, senior, from childhood on, and texts between Andy and a young woman he’s hoping to seduce.
Full of humor, human foibles, and beautiful writing—“seductive and ripe with both comedy and heartbreak,” as NPR reviewer Mary Pols said—it’s a book that flew under my radar, but which I’m glad I finally found. ( )
  Vicki_Weisfeld | Jan 28, 2016 |
This is a classic literary novel about two families, the Dyers and the Toppings, and the way their lives have been shaped by one of the patriarchs, reclusive novelist A. N. Dyer. Ampersand is the title of a novel by protagonist A.N. Dyer, whose monogram also reads, “and.” Dyer’s lifelong friend, Charles Topping dies at the beginning of the story, leading Dyer to confront his own mortality. The vast majority of the novel centers on Dyer’s attempt to bring together the lives of his older sons from his first marriage to their half-brother, whose birth caused that marriage to collapse. Jamie and Richard agree to a reunion, but with agendas of their own. Meanwhile, Charlie Topping's son, Philip, his life in shambles, also attends the Dyers' reunion.

I was not a big fan of this novel. It will most likely appeal to many readers who love literary fiction but I found it dull and uninteresting. I didn't like a single one of the characters and the narration dragged on. I'm sure David Gilbert is a wonderful writer but at this point in my life, I don't have that much time left to read books I really enjoy, much less ones I have to struggle through. I finished the book only because my neighborhood book club selected it. My goal this week will be to find something positive to say so I don't hurt the feelings of the very nice lady who selected it as our March choice.
( )
  Olivermagnus | Jan 17, 2016 |
I give up. I've tried to read & listen to this book 4 times over the last 3 months.
I probably made it about 30% of the way thru while listening to it on CD but then the 4th & 5th CDs were all scratched & kept skipping.
I borrowed the ebook from the library & tried to read it for the 3rd time & just couldn't make myself dedicate any more precious time to the book.
It's very disjointed. At times, I wasn't sure who was telling the story. It switched back & forth from the narrator to the sons & the father in a very confusing manner.
I just didn't care about any of the characters.
It's just such a boring story with boring characters.
I have too many books on my "to read" list to waste any more time on trying to figure out why this book is so highly rated by so many people.
( )
  PiperUp | Aug 14, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812993969, Hardcover)

A literary masterwork for readers of The Art of Fielding, The Emperor’s Children, and Wonder Boys—the panoramic, deeply affecting story of two interconnected families, an iconic novelist, and the heartbreaking truths that fiction can hide
 
The funeral of Charles Henry Topping on Manhattan’s Upper East Side would have been a minor affair (his two-hundred-word obit in The New York Times notwithstanding) but for the presence of one particular mourner: the notoriously reclusive author A. N. Dyer, whose novel Ampersand stands as a classic of American teenage angst. But as Andrew Newbold Dyer delivers the eulogy for his oldest friend, he suffers a breakdown over the life he’s led and the people he’s hurt and the novel that will forever endure as his legacy. He must gather his three sons for the first time in many years—before it’s too late.
 
So begins a wild, transformative, heartbreaking week, as witnessed by Philip Topping, who, like his late father, finds himself caught up in the swirl of the Dyer family. First there’s son Richard, a struggling screenwriter and father, returning from self-imposed exile in California. In the middle lingers Jamie, settled in Brooklyn after his twenty-year mission of making documentaries about human suffering. And last is Andy, the half brother whose mysterious birth tore the Dyers apart seventeen years ago, now in New York on spring break, determined to lose his virginity before returning to the prestigious New England boarding school that inspired Ampersand. But only when the real purpose of this reunion comes to light do these sons realize just how much is at stake, not only for their father but for themselves and three generations of their family.
 
In this daring feat of fiction, David Gilbert establishes himself as one of our most original, entertaining, and insightful authors. & Sons is that rarest of treasures: a startlingly imaginative novel about families and how they define us, and the choices we make when faced with our own mortality.

Advance praise for & Sons
 
“David Gilbert’s & Sons is that novel you’ve been waiting for without knowing you were waiting. Big, brilliant, and terrifically funny, it’s a moving story about fathers and sons and success, a dead-on, deadpan retelling of our American literary myth.”—Jess Walter
 
“I like novels about novelists, and surely everyone is a sucker for a story that begins at the funeral of a childhood friend—especially a funeral with such a sense of foreboding (‘we would all return to this church’). & Sons is not an easy novel to describe without giving too much of the story away. Why would the first-person narrator need to defend himself from ‘charges of narrative fraud’? Why is a seventeen-year-old Exeter student—the product, we are told, of an affair that ended the novelist’s marriage and estranged the writer from his older sons—likened to ‘a small boy overboard, possibly drowning’? Yes, the writing is gorgeous—not only the prose but the power of David Gilbert’s observations. ‘All things have a second birth,’ Gilbert writes, and later, ‘We all have something to steal.’ And have I mentioned, without giving it away, that this is a terrific story?”—John Irving
 
“Informed by observation and memory rather than aspiration and fantasy, & Sons is a New York novel written by an actual New Yorker. David Gilbert is smart, funny, and empathetic, but most important, possessed of a true literary sensibility that is seasoned, not seasonal.”—Fran Lebowitz

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:18 -0400)

A famous reclusive writer and his three sons find their bond tested by the weight of long-held secrets and a cumbersome legacy shaped by boarding school, Hollywood, and the elite circles of the publishing world.

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