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The Hundred Brothers by Donald Antrim
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The Hundred Brothers

by Donald Antrim

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Very weird book. If you can get yourself to accept the fact that the main topic of this book are really the 100 brothers meeting in the red library then it's an enjoyable book. It took some time getting used to the idea, though. The story teller delivers a mix of insights into the unique family dynamics and completely absurd actions on his behalf. Fun in a strange and disturbing way.
  verenka | Jun 20, 2010 |
The water splashed over me and I felt happier, I believe, than I’ve ever felt in my life, which is to say I felt nothing at all…

If you know anything about Donald Antrim, anything at all, whether it be by reading a book or two (max: 4), or having maybe heard his name somewhere, from some mysterious source long ago whispering it in your ears—whatever: the one thing anyone who knows anything about Donald Antrim and his writing can tell you is this:

He’s postmodern.

Go ahead and look up reviews via Amazon. Nine out of ten will discuss how simply and richly postmodern Donald is, which is fine and dandy, really—I love this sort of pop pomo à la Foer and Franzen and Eggers, so despite couple thick-ish coats of symbolism, it’s a quick read: I read it in one rain-soaked aft. under cover at Landa Park—, but reading all these comments prior to reading the first sentence of 100 Bros. had me thinking by the halfway point that Donald isn’t really writing about fraternity both literal and non-, a society’s rising inclination towards voyeurism born from a growing inability to communicate, depression, alcoholism, and whatever the hell Donald’s getting at with the Corn King sacrifice, (and so on and so on,) that what Donald is really writing about is himself writing postmodern fiction, chuckling and going “haw, haw, I’m so clever[1]”—which he is: clever: really, really extremely very clever.

Doug , Our Hero/Narrator, is one of 99 brothers[2], ranging agewise between 25 and 93 gathering in the decrepit, crumbling ‘red library’ within the decrepit, crumbling and absolutely ginormous family mansion[3] for social activities such as dinner, playing indoor football w/ a pillow, rituatavistic sacrifice, and the finding of and putting to rest of their father’s ashes, which is suggested they’ve been planning to accomplish over an uncountable number of similar meetings before the focus of this 200-page monochapter, and complete ass, a socially-retarded dolorous dick/drunk feeding off of the misery of his own kith and kin, esp. poor, annoying, querulous little Virgil[4].

Don does a p. good job of introducing 99 bros. and George the No-Show and their dead father in such a short period of time. Every brother who gets some spotlight suffers their own neuroses and while it’s of course unbelievable, taken to the limit of hyperbolic absurdity[5], they’re all silly and/or in many ways extremely dislikable: There’s Doug; there’s Virgil; there’s the pudgy Max back from the Congo or whatever tripping on his natural herbs and dripping dripping blood nonstop cataleptic and epileptic; there’s Hiram, stuck, as the eldest bro., with the patriarchal role, shuffling and chastising across the library’s expanding expanse over all 200 pgs.; there’s Fielding, a voyeur’s voyeur, video-taping everything and making an ass of himself[6]; there’s Seamus the narcoleptic, for whom if things tend to get even remotely quiet falls asleep on the spot, commencing from thence on to swing his arms wildly in a desperate and blind search for the bathroom, laying waste to anyone w/ the misfortune or bad luck of stepping too close to the wild and uncontrollable arms[7]; there’s the entomologist w/ his racing beetles[8]; there’s Jack, the Guy Always Dressed Like He’s On A Safari, prone to spend hours at a time stalking with a quiet and fierce concentration his blind brother Alan, inching closer and closer while dodging his (Alan’s) swinging cane while the other brothers all either ignore or watch; and so on.

As the dinner party progresses (or regresses) on into the late hours, OH/N with stealth and cunning and as the family’s unofficial chronicler of all things genealogical watches with contempt the interactions of his brothers, engaging in small-talk and numerous philosophical internal soliloquies on the house and its surroundings (dead animals & animal-shaped bushes) and the faces one (read: every brother) would briefly spot and briefly recognize as some imaginary acquaintance in the distance looking in from a particular window, the consistent depression and faults of his brothers, etc. He also discusses the human condition (and the social evolution of humanity) with a Doberman as the novel rushes towards its surreal and literally urine-soaked climax with the library seeming to morph and bend into some labyrinthine monstrosity, walls crunching and leaking water, snow pouring in through the windows and coating all the books, and Doug, by this point drunk at Kerouacian levels[9], hikes a pillow and looks to the ceiling, to an expanding and magnificent water stain taking the shape of his father’s face, mouth agape & leaking black water & issuing commands and things are starting to dip into a Danielewski plane of weirdness here leading up to and through the climax to the story’s vaguely confusing end.

Recommended for youngsters as pretentious as myself.

F.V.: 75%
[122]

[1] (& postmodern)
[2] (& George, the No-Show—Why? Why?)
[3] [Castle?]
[4] A runt-like and sickly loser; someone seriously needs to call this guy a wahmbulance.
[5] One of the, I’ve come to learn, two major traits of postmodern fiction. The other essentially being an understanding with or a reaction to a televisual (i.e., unified) culture.
[6] (No one likes Fielding.)
[7] ”We’re all going to grow old and die,” Seamus says before gyrating his arms and lumbering in the direction of the bathroom.
[8] Who seriously makes a lousy entomologist; I mean, he screams that his racing beetles are 100% clean and it’s roaches and humans who are diseased. Roaches! How does this guy have a career?
[9] His most comfortable s.o.m. ( )
7 vote rickyrickyricky | Sep 30, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679769420, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:24:43 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

A family reunion of 99 brothers--the oldest 90, the youngest 20. The event gives rise to the usual conflicting memories, hurt feelings, rivalries and alliances, but with so many emotions at work, little wonder the reunion explodes. Part comedy, part serious study of family relations. By the author of Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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