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The Brothers Paperback – April 10, 2001

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint; 1st Counterpoint pbk. ed edition (April 10, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582431302
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582431307
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,823,635 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Weird ironies of American mass culture highlight the quandaries of characters reaching middle age in Barthelme's understated, low-key tale of filial relations and midlife crises set in contemporary Mississippi. Shortly before his 44th birthday, recently divorced Del Tribute relocates to Biloxi, where his brother Bud lives. But Bud is on the road to Hollywood, where he seeks revitalization and success, and Del finds himself sharing a house with his attractive sister-in-law Margaret. Their mutual affection rapidly goes beyond acceptable bounds, creating guilt, awkwardness and confusion upon Bud's return. While Del begins a new life that soon includes Jen, a sexy young true-crime buff, Bud and Margaret try to repair their marriage, and all four grapple with their changing relationships. Barthelme ( Natural Selection ) revisits familiar themes of love, sex, marital strife, divorce and midlife depression set against the landscape of postmodern America (from computer bulletin board services to mass advertising to roadside vendors) with his trademark precision, ear for trendy, idiomatic speech and eye for paradox. A slow, ruminative narrative written in spare, sardonic prose and packed with odd insights and up-to-the-minute detail, the novel is a leisurely tour through a milieu to which Barthelme is undoubtedly the foremost guide.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

Del, who used to do p.r. work in Houston, is given a condo in Biloxi, Mississippi, by his grateful ex-father-in-law after Del divorces the man's daughter. Biloxi happens to be home-base for Del's college-teacher brother Bud, too--plus Bud's attractive and level wife Margaret. When Del arrives in Biloxi, though, it's to find Bud gone to California in a spasm of the midlife crisis he's continually having. Del and Margaret keep each other company a little too well--just skirting treachery--and Del's hangover from this continues when Bud returns and proceeds to hold the indiscretion over him. Meanwhile, Del has found the much-younger and quite weird Jen (she publishes a free sheet of gruesome oddities taken off the CompuServe newslines)--and with her help tries to negotiate life with a quite desperate brother, an ambivalent sister-in-law, and Del's own bred-in-the-bone velleity. Small-time academics and a visit by a priest who'd like to chuck his collar don't help to firm up anyone's life-vision--funny, scathing portraiture. Barthelme (Natural Selection, 1990, etc.) writes with exceptional beauty about what Biloxi looks, smells, tastes, and sounds like--its tawdry but lovely gulfside edge--and there is to the characters' confusions and shamblings a new fine melancholy never before quite as codified in Barthelme's fictional world: depressive Bud at one point tells Del, apropos USA Today, that ``People who are supposed to be removed from what's going on, well, they're all part of it now. Everything that could possibly go wrong has already gone wrong, and now it's going wrong even more.'' This finished-fug suggests a redemption of the failed and gives the book hope and some shape. Not much, but enough to make the utterly fantastical image that ends the book--Del as a half-joke wrapping Bud in gauze and foil and leading him out to the condo's balcony for a while--take on indelibility. One of Barthelme's more haunting novels. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Frederick Barthelme was a founding member, with Mayo Thompson, of the ongoing art/psychedelic rock band Red Krayola, and a painter and conceptual artist in Houston and New York in the late 1960s. His work in that area appears in many of the seminal publications of the movement including Lucy Lippard's The Dematerialization of the Art Object, Donald Karshan's exhibition catalog Conceptual Art and Conceptual Aspects, several of Seth Siegelaub's projects, and other books and monographs on the movement. In the mid-seventies he studied fiction with John Barth at The Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars, from which he received his Master of Arts degree. From 1977-2010 he taught fiction writing and directed the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi. He won numerous awards including individual grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, and diverse grants and awards as editor of Mississippi Review, the literary magazine he edited in print 1977-2010, and for the independent electronic magazine Mississippi Review Online which he founded and edited 1995-2010. He is author of sixteen books of fiction and nonfiction including Moon Deluxe, Second Marriage, Tracer, Two Against One, Natural Selection, The Brothers, Painted Desert, Bob the Gambler, Elroy Nights, and Waveland. He provided texts for Susan Lipper's 1999 book of photographs, Trip, and is an occasional contributor to The New Yorker. He has published fiction and nonfiction in GQ, Fiction, Kansas Quarterly, Epoch, Ploughshares, Playboy, Esquire, TriQuarterly, North American Review, The New York Times, Frank, The Southern Review, the Boston Globe Magazine, and elsewhere. His work has been translated into nine languages. His memoir, Double Down: Reflections on Gambling and Loss, was co-authored with his brother Steven, and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. The same honor was awarded his retrospective collection of stories, The Law of Averages, published by Counterpoint in November 2000. His novel Elroy Nights, published in October 2003 by Counterpoint, was also a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and was one of five finalists for the 2004 PEN/Faulkner Award. In 2009 he published Waveland, a novel set on the Mississippi Gulf Coast a year after Katrina. In 2010 he won the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Fiction, and is presently editor and publisher of the online literary publication Blip Magazine and is at work on new writing projects including a new novel for Little, Brown.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Quin on May 30, 2005
Format: Paperback
"They left the hotel at three the next afternoon. Jen was driving, Bud and Margaret were in the back. They took a turn bt the beach long enough for a last look, then slipped back up to I-10 and headed west toward Mobile. They were riding alongside an eighteen-wheel truck that had big lemons and limes painted on its side. The traffic was surprisingly heavy, Jen pulled in behind the truck and hit the cruise control. "I'm just following this guy," she said. "Wherever he goes." (128)

This paragraph from half way through the novel serves as a good example of the forward momentum of Frederick Barthelme's narrative. Perhaps `momentum' isn't the right word, as the direction hardly seems driven by forces originating in the past. I can't think of a novel in which past, certainly fate, plays so small a role. Does Fate exist in Barthelme's cosmos? Not much would seem to be more ripe for a depiction of destiny working its strange power than the relationship between brothers (inviting as it can a veritable mess of power struggles and envy, not to mention mythic analogies reaching into the archaic past), and yet Del and Bud here experience less of this than one would have thought dramatically interesting, for all their problems. Actually, `The Brothers', really isn't all that dramatically interesting, but what is compelling is one of the most detailed descriptions of the `new South' that out-Percys Percy, where Gas-mart attendants have bellies the size of cash registers and Kmart and Audio Instinct are more prevalent than plantations.

`The Brothers' is actually a little lopsided as titles go, as all the action is centered around Del, who has just moved to Biloxi following a divorce that took place just before the novel begins.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Steven V. Owen on September 13, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book, like most fictions, is about personalities and social interactions. There is no requirement that an author create likeable personalities or nice interactions, and Barthelme demonstrates that here. Actually, he has gone out of his way to create disagreeable characters, chronically drifting and unskilled. The dialog is banal and jittery, reflecting speakers' shallowness and irrelevance. Characters talk past--not to--each other.

Sequences are unpredictable and implausible, as though lives are completely out of personal control. Needing a plotline? Invent your own. If you are looking for existential anomie, this may satisfy you, although you might save some time by just reading a bunch of newspaper classified ads.
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