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The Hundred Brothers Hardcover – January 28, 1997

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Editorial Reviews Review

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.

From Library Journal

In this unconventional novel, 99 of 100 brothers meet in the decaying library of their deceased father's estate to locate and bury the old man's ashes. The brothers range in age from 25 to 93, and their idiosyncracies vary even more widely. Doug, the narrator and family genealogist, navigates the winding road of relations, as well as the labyrinthine stacks of the huge library, the organization of which would send Dewey spinning in his casket. Antrim (Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World, LJ 9/15/93) crafts a comic nightmare of a family reunion, in which old hostilities renew themselves, cliques form and disintegrate with lightning speed, and the lines for the bar and buffet are so alarmingly long it's difficult to get a drink, let alone dinner. The search for the missing urn functions as a device to showcase Doug's delusions of his father's ghost, his (well-founded) fears about his character and worth, and his desire to share with his brothers the true meaning of dread?a favor they happily return. Recommended.?Adam Mazmanian, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 206 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; 1st edition (January 28, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0517703106
  • ISBN-13: 978-0517703106
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,329,137 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

This was a whole lot of nothing.
I do like 'The Verificationist' and 'The Elect Mr. Robinson' better, but as in all his books it is unlike any book one has ever read.
Kim F. Hill
The tone absolutely consistent and brilliant.
M. Haber

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By E. A. Jamieson on June 28, 2004
Format: Paperback
Most reviewers seem to focus on whether or not this book exemplifies post-modernism and whether or not that's good or bad. Unfortunately, I've never been able to figure out what postmodernism is, so I can't help ya there.
All I know is Pynchon and Delillo just confuse me, Vollman makes me laugh but I can't figure out what the hell he's driving at, but Antrim just makes me feel good all over.
Maybe it's the way he introduces all 100 brothers, in order, in about 5 pages, and then blithely writes the rest of the book as if you're going to remember who they all are. Which is a good hook, because, who hasn't been to a social function where you get introduced to a few dozen people within 5 minutes, after which you're supposed to remember everybody?
Maybe I just identify with the hapless, socially retarded dope of a narrator who just wants everyone to get along but ends up, well, no spoilers, in a unique and singularly undignified situation.
But it's not simplistic comedy - it's a bit like one of those Borges stories where you think, "ok, this is gonna be a quick read, only 12 pages" and then you find it takes a good 2 hours to make a bit of sense of it.
Well, you could compare it to a lot of things, but that wouldn't do it justice, because the best part is, it just ain't quite like anything you've read before.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 8, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Donald Antrim is perhaps the most unique and brilliant voice in surreal tragi-humor (if such a category does indeed exist).
With The Hundred Brothers, a ridiculous premise is set; a family of a hundred brothers, but wholly acceptable through the rational eyes of our narrarator. But then ensues a masterful literary roller coaster ride through bizarre and surreal landscapes. And Antrim never leaves one room! Brilliant!
In his novels, Antrim has a way of establishing a simple and rational universe, then subtly and ironically, disseminating it bit by bit, gradually revealing an entirely new surreal and ridiculous world that lay beneath its original carapace. Antrim's writing indeed can twist one's mind and warp any sense of reality that may have managed to linger a few pages into the novel. His allegories are both ellusive and mischevious.
His humor is deep. It is infectuous and possesive. It may not make you snicker or giggle on the spot, but it will take seed and infest your thought processes, and cause episodes of deep pondering on the depth and subtext of Mr. Antrim's subtle hillarities. It is the type of Monty Pythonesque multi-textual humor that can quite possibly change your life.
The short length of Antrim's mono-chapteric novels fit his narrative perfectly; sprawling, circuituous, seguatious, a uniform current of brilliance that blends vignettes and episodes like an early Pink Floyd album. Still, at the close of an Antrim, novel, one can only thrist for more. The solution to this problem is only obvious: MORE NOVELS BY DONALD ANTRIM!
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 16, 1998
Format: Paperback
"A collision between 'The Brothers Karamazov' and the Brothers Marx," as the publisher suggests? I think it is an episode of "Seinfeld" written by Edgar Allan Poe! We have a collection of neurotic people, repulsive yet oddly attractive, who overdo everything. We also have a gradual crescendo of horror. Every brother, including the narrator, has glaring faults in which we recognize our own, or at least our neighbors' lesser faults and self-deceptions. The setting, obeying the Aristotelian unities of time and place, seems to grow and evolve in nightmare fashion. The love and hatred between the brothers is searing. All brothers fight, in my experience, except for one pair because of the saintly character of the elder brother. Many years ago, the two shared a bedroom, and the younger brother had a drum set. No harsh word ever passed between them. I believe a hair from the elder brother's beard has already cured several persons of leprosy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By ACD on March 30, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Doug, the protagonist of this wickedly delicious novel, is gathering with 98 of his brothers in the giant library of their family mansion for a night of food, drink, and hedonistic revelry. The entire book (albeit short at a mere 188 pages) takes place during the course of this night. How does someone have 99 siblings to begin with, where is anyone else in the family, and why this night of all night do they meet? Well, it's never quite explained. We do meet all hundred brothers though, and Antrim even lists everyone of them in one very long first sentence. After that things quickly jump the tracks of any normally structured novel and descend into somewhat of a mad scene that goes on and on.

After a few pages we find out at least what the narrator's hope is for the night: that they finally find out what happened to their dead father's urn and put his memory to rest. But as fights break out, alcohol and drugs are consumed, bats get in, the windows are opened, a storm approaches, and old rivalries are re-explored, bedlam breaks out and we find that each brother has a more sinister goal, with the narrator Doug at the middle of their designs.

There are definitely more questions raised than answered, and much is unclear, which makes this little book a joy of speculation. What do the hundred brothers symbolize? Why is one missing? Why is a mother never mentioned? If the house is falling apart, what's to become of everyone?

A lot of fun to read with laugh-out-loud an hour after your bedtime moments (because you just can't put it down), this imaginative work is something like the Underground Man getting drunk and gaying it up at a huge party.
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