Thursday, June 30, 2011

America’s Strangest Novel

The Daily Beast

Jonathan Franzen (pic left Rex Features) sings the praises of the brilliant, funny, and admittedly strange genius of Donald Antrim’s 'The Hundred Brothers,' which has just been reissued.

The Hundred Brothers  is possibly the strangest novel ever published by an American. Its author, Donald Antrim, is arguably more unlike any other living writer than any other living writer. And yet, paradoxically—in much the same way that the novel’s narrator, Doug, is at once the most singular of his father’s hundred sons and the one who most profoundly expresses the sorrows and desires and neuroses of the other ninety-nine—The Hundred Brothers is also the most representative of novels. It speaks like none of us for all of us

Midway through his narrative, Doug spells out the fundamental fact that drives it: “I love my brothers and I hate their guts.” The beauty of the novel is that Antrim has created a narrator who reproduces, in the reader, the same volatile mixture of feelings regarding the narrator himself: Doug is at once irresistibly lovable and unbearably frustrating. The genius of the novel is that it maps these contradictory feelings onto the archetypal figure of the scapegoat: the exemplary sufferer who recurs throughout human history, most notably in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, as an object of both love and homicidal rage, and who must be ritually killed in order for the rest of us to go on living with the contradictions in our lesser hearts.

Full review at The Daily Beast

Title: The Hundred Brothers
Author: Donald Antrim
Publisher: Picador
ISBN: 978-0-312-66219-6
Price: US$15.00

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