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& Sons Hardcover – Deckle Edge, July 23, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (July 23, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812993969
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812993967
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (170 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #271,864 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Acutely aware that his time is short after the death of his lifelong friend, Charles Topping, Andrew Dyer, a revered, famously reclusive New York writer, is anxious for his youngest son, 17-year-old Andy, whose birth destroyed Andrew’s marriage, to connect with his two half brothers. Their chaotic reunion becomes the catalyst for Gilbert’s (The Normals, 2004) intricately configured, shrewdly funny, and acidly critical novel. Richard, a junkie turned drug-addiction counselor and screenwriter, lives in Los Angeles with his fine family. Based in Brooklyn, Jamie circles the globe, videotaping atrocities. Heirs to a classic WASP heritage compounded by Andrew’s cultish, Salingeresque renown, the edgy Dyer men are prevaricators and schemers whose hectic, hilarious, and wrenching misadventures involve a fake manuscript, a Hollywood superstar, and a shattering video meant to be a private homage but which, instead, goes viral. Then there’s Andrew’s preposterous claim about sweet Andy’s conception. Gilbert slyly plants unnerving scenes from Andrew’s revered boarding-school-set, coming-of-age novel, Ampersand, throughout, while Topping’s resentful, derailed son, Philip, narrates with vengeful intent. A marvel of uproarious and devastating missteps and reversals charged with lightning dialogue, Gilbert’s delectably mordant and incisive tragicomedy of fathers, sons, and brothers, privilege and betrayal, celebrity and obscurity, ingeniously and judiciously maps the interface between truth and fiction, life and art. --Donna Seaman

Review

“[A] big, brilliant novel.”The New York Times Book Review

“In terms of sheer reading pleasure, my favorite book this year was & Sons, David Gilbert’s big, intelligent, richly textured novel about fathers, sons, friendship, and legacies. . . . From [A. N.] Dyer’s slacker sons to a J. Crew-wearing young seductress, every member of Gilbert’s cast of characters is perfectly drawn.”—Ruth Franklin, The New Yorker

“Gilbert’s should be among the half-dozen or so names cited by critics and serious readers when they’re asked who produced [the year’s] most dazzlingly smart, fully realized works of fiction.”The Washington Post
 
“A grand book, even extraordinary.”—Lev Grossman, Time
 
“If you read only a few books this year, this one should be one of them.”—The Huffington Post
 
“Clear the sand from your beach-book-overloaded mind for this smart, engrossing saga about a reclusive famous author and his late-life attempt to make amends to the many people he’s let down. Perfect for fans of Jonathan Franzen or Claire Messud.”Entertainment Weekly
 
“A contemporary New York variation on The Brothers Karamazov, featuring a J. D. Salinger–like writer in the role of Father, and a protagonist who turns out to be as questionable a tour guide as the notoriously unreliable narrator of Ford Madox Ford’s classic The Good Soldier . . . a big, ambitious book about fathers and sons, Oedipal envy and sibling rivalry, and the dynamics between art and life, talent and virtue. The novel is smart, funny, observant and . . . does a wonderful job of conjuring up its characters’ memories of growing up in New York City in layered, almost Proustian detail.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
 
“[A] throwback literary novel . . . Its rueful, poetic vision of faded WASP grandeur is frequently heartbreaking.”People
 
“Very nearly a masterwork. Gilbert is an assured, versatile and often very funny writer.”The Dallas Morning News
 
“Throughout & Sons, Gilbert provides lengthy excerpts from [his] novel-within-a-novel, and, as far as the reader can tell, Ampersand is caustic, comic, and clever, like Gilbert’s own novel. . . . Gilbert has a rich theme, and plenty of talent. He has a wonderfully sharp eye for the emotional reticence of the men of A. N. Dyer’s generation and class, for the ways in which their more open, more voluble children must become expert readers of patriarchal gaps and silences, in order to make sense of what he finely calls ‘these heavily redacted men.’ . . . Gilbert often writes superbly, his sentences crisp, witty, and rightly weighted. . . . Some of [his metaphors] realign the visual world, asking us, as Nabokov’s best metaphors do, to estrange in order to reconnect. . . . Every page proposes something clever and well turned. Gilbert is bursting with little achievements. . . . This is a writer capable of something as beautifully simple, and achingly deep, as this description of Richard and Jamie, as they see their mother approaching them in the pub: ‘The brothers straightened, reshaped as sons.’”—James Wood, The New Yorker
 
“This great big novel is also infused with warmth and wisdom about what it means to be a family.”The Boston Globe
 
“When someone uses the term ‘instant classic,’ I typically want to grab him and ask, ‘So this is, what, like the new Great Expectations? You sure about that?’ But David Gilbert’s novel & Sons, seductive and ripe with both comedy and heartbreak, made me reconsider my stance on such a label. . . . This is the book I’d most like to lug from one beach to another for the rest of summer, if only I hadn’t torn through it in two very happy days this spring. . . . Gilbert’s portrait of [New York City] and its literary set is as smart and savage in its way as Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities, half love letter, half indictment, and wholly irresistible.”—NPR
 
“In her iconic essay ‘Goodbye to All That,’ Joan Didion famously described New York City as ‘the mysterious nexus of all love and money and power, the shining and perishable dream itself.’ . . . David Gilbert’s layered & Sons probes that nexus from the inside, limning the emotional decay of two prominent Manhattan families and literary masterpiece that cages them. . . . Vivid, inventive.”O: The Oprah Magazine
 
“Gilbert has great narrative gifts and a wonderful eye for the madness of families and the madness of writers. . . . & Sons is a novel that creates an imaginary author who is so real and flawed that the reader feels he understands American literature itself a little better after reading his story.”Los Angeles Times
 
“Richly entertaining . . . has the rare quality of being funny without being silly, serious without being solemn, and powerfully moving without being either sentimental or coercive.”The Guardian (UK)

“The right novelist can turn even a novel about a novelist into a book big enough to delight all the rest of us.”—Salon
 
“A Franzenish portrait of a biting, aging New York writer, David Gilbert’s novel is perceptive, witty, and—like all great books about remote fathers and their sons—prone to leaving male readers either cursing or calling their dads.”New York
 
“A thought-provoking and engrossing read . . . I found myself falling into [the characters’] lives, caring for them, worrying for them and ultimately missing them as the novel came to a close.”Chicago Tribune
 
& Sons is a sophisticated, compassionate novel, very much more than a clever take on the vicissitudes of the writing life. Funny and smart, it is lit with the kind of writing that makes the reader break into a smile.”Financial Times

“Gilbert’s finely wrought prose . . . teems with elaborate word plays and tests the reader’s perceptiveness at every turn.”Vanity Fair
 
“A delicious read.”—New York Daily News
 
“If the stylish brilliance of recent novels by Rachel Kushner, Jess Walter, and Peter Heller has been hinting at a new golden age of American prose, then David Gilbert’s ambitious, sprawling, and altogether masterful second novel, & Sons, confirms it.”—The Daily Beast
 
“A work of pure genius.”The Buffalo News
 
“Extraordinary.”San Francisco Chronicle

“A witty and ultimately tragic take on the perennial subject of how the sins of the fathers are visited on their sons. There are echoes of Turgenev here, to say nothing of Jonathan Franzen and John Irving. But the music is entirely Gilbert’s, and at the end of this bravura performance you'll want to give him a standing ovation.”Newsday
 
“Brilliant . . . weaves together the frayed threads of fame, fatherhood, family and friendship into a meditation on the blessing and curse of creativity . . . Thoughtful, farcical, acerbic and original, Gilbert’s crisp writing and sinuous mind could grab and hold any reader.”Bloomberg Businessweek
 
“[& Sons is] about the emotional bonds between fathers, sons and brothers—the overwhelming love that can’t be adequately expressed and the burden of unspoken expectations. . . . Gilbert is an inventive, emotionally perceptive writer.”—Associated Press
 
“Celebrates the power of words . . . thick with wit and close observation . . . [& Sons is] built to last.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
 
& Sons conjures a career’s worth of drool-worthy fictional fiction that’s so convincingly evoked, I almost recall writing a paper on it in freshman English class.”The New York Times Magazine
 
“[A] big, rich book . . . With wit and heart, Gilbert illuminates the complicated ways that fathers and sons misunderstand, disappoint, and love one another and how their behavior affects the women in their lives.”Real Simple
 
& Sons is an often funny, always elegant, lingering gaze back at a world in which writers are still gods at the very center of culture.”Esquire

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Customer Reviews

I did not like any of the characters and found the narration to be confusing.
Beth F Levine
There is one plot twist in there that I found a bit too implausible--it would have been better if more of the characters felt the same way.
Elizabeth Hendry
There’s a lot of “and” in this novel that will appeal most to those readers who love literary fiction.
Stephen T. Hopkins

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

76 of 85 people found the following review helpful By Brendan Moody TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A couple different phrases come to mind when I try to summarize David Gilbert's new novel. One is "all dressed up with no place to go." & SONS is full of striking characters, carefully-crafted prose, and well-evoked (if familiar) scenes from urban life. It's the story of 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. When his lifelong friend Charlie Topping dies, Dyer confronts his own mortality, inviting his two older sons to come home and bond with their teenage half-brother, his namesake. Jamie and Richard agree, but with agendas of their own. Meanwhile, Charlie Topping's son, his life in shambles, insinuates himself into the Dyers' reunion. The stage is set for... well, something, you would think. But instead of evolving, the narrative wanders down several dead ends before stumbling into an unearned climax. There are pieces of several promising novels here, but they're jumbled together in a way that undermines rather than reinforcing them. Fortunately, the other phrase that comes to mind is "magnificent failure." The in-the-moment experience is strong enough that the larger failings aren't fatal.

I mentioned several promising novels. One would focus on Philip Topping, son of the deceased, who narrates. He's ostensibly an unreliable narrator, his simultaneous affection for and resentment of the Dyers coloring his behavior. But, though Philip is just about unsympathetic enough for the purpose, Gilbert doesn't use the device of unreliability in an effective way. Unreliable narrators work best when they betray themselves, when the reader is made reasonably certain just how extensive their dishonesty is.
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30 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Ken C. TOP 1000 REVIEWER on August 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
David Gilbert's ambitious & SONS is one of those books that will as easily garner 5 stars as one. There's that much to like -- and seriously wonder about. Let's start with the problematic aspects so we can finish on a high note. While the book centers on an aging, J.D. Salingeresque writer named Andrew (A.N.) Dyer and his three sons, it is supposedly narrated by Philip Topping, son of Andrew's best pal Charlie, whose funeral opens the book. Seems innocent enough, but the point-of-view is convoluted. Though he plays a minor role in the 400+ page book, Philip seems to be an omniscient narrator for most of the scenes he is not privy too.

Then, when he's on hand, he's more like a 1st-person POV narrator, a Nick Carraway sort, if you will. Most damning of all, he's a bit creepy in his hero worship of Andrew Dyer and in his hanging around in general. He asks if he can stay at the Dyer home after his dad's funeral and, thanks to the awkward situation, is granted permission even though no one but him took the offer seriously. I'm left to wonder why Philip was included in the first place. The book would have done as well -- or better -- without him.

Another deficiency is Gilbert's tendency to overwrite. There's no digression he's willing to forgo, no back story he's willing to pass on. Instead, he indulges himself, sometimes for dozens of meandering pages. The reader gets a bit lost, brushes back the spider webs, and wonders aloud, "Why am I here again?"

All that said, the book has its merits. First and foremost, Gilbert is an idea man and can grace the page was some eloquent sentences at times -- the kind you stop, reread, and say, "Wish I thought of that.
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45 of 57 people found the following review helpful By S. Dean on July 25, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Like many contemporary novelists, "& Sons" is an attempt to capture many of the feelings we want out of literature. While I had not read any of his other works, it is apparent that author David Gilbert is familiar with larger expectations for complex works by interweaving multiple viewpoints, dealing with darker themes in familial relationships, and throwing in the unexpected. In terms of style and tone, Gilbert does come across as different, unique and fresh.

However, Gilbert's novel has a few detractors that make it have less of a broad appeal. For the most part it is a study of relationships between reclusive, privileged, New Yorker fathers and sons. While I understand the romance with the New York City life, and reflections of a Woody Allen view of the city, I still am not sure how relatable these characters are on the whole. Adding to the problem, is the bouncing weave of storylines and viewpoints that at times is hard to follow, especially when the father is named Andrew, and the son is called Andy. To confuse matters more, Gilbert drops in copies of handwritten letters that are often hard to read but essential in terms of characters reacting to these letters, and sections of the fictional author A.N. Dyer's novels.

As well, the novel comes across to the reader as trying too hard. In the course of building this reclusive author's character, Dyer's biggest classical piece of literature is called "Ampersand" and is constantly compared to "Catcher in the Rye." Instead of feeling like a natural comparison, the number of times this is mentioned make it instead feel like that one friend who has gotten to meet a few B-list celebrities, and constantly namedrops at the most casual of dinner parties.
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