Reviews for Sons

Booklist Reviews 2013 July #1
*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. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2013 August #1
A charming, often funny, sophomore novel by Gilbert (The Normals, 2004). Novels about novelists run the risk of being too meta on the one hand and too cute on the other, though some occasionally work--the sterling example of our time being Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys. Gilbert wisely places as much emphasis on the surrounding players as on paterfamilias A.N. Dyer, who has written one particularly well-received coming-of-age novel and a host of other works that have established him nicely in the oak-paneled Upper East Side literary stratosphere. Those surrounding players are, somewhat in order, the late friend whose funeral opens the novel, then offspring, his own and the deceased's: thus the "& sons" of the title, suggesting that literature might be a family business but more pointedly, that, in a household run with distant dictatorial benevolence, as if in a company, there's going to be trouble. So it is with Dyer's boys, gathered as Dad feels his own mortality approaching, who are a hot mess of failure coupled with ambition (and, for the most part, willing to work to attain it); one is a former addict, the other a maker of documentaries no one sees, still another, the youngest, is fully aware that he is the agent of his father's split from his older brothers' mother. Much of the story is a (mostly) gentle sendup of the literary life and its practitioners of the fusty old school and the hipster new ("You know what would give the story extra kick," says one of the latter, "if the other guy was Mark David Chapman."); a highlight is a devastatingly accurate peek into a hoity-toity book party. In the main, the novel moves without a hitch, though a couple of elements don't quite hang together, particularly the place of the narrator, at once respectful and not quite trustworthy, in the whole affair. Still, Gilbert tantalizes with a big question: Will Dad, before he kicks the bucket, share some of his fortunes in any sense other than the monetary and bring his sons into the fold? Read on for the answer, which takes its time, most enjoyably, to unfold. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2013 May #1

This large-scale novel explores the dysfunctional family of A.N. Dyer, a famous New York writer who recalls J.D. Salinger. As the novel opens, Dyer, 79 and in failing health, is attending the funeral of a close friend with his three sons. The two eccentric older sons from his former marriage have histories of drug abuse, while the youngest son attends boarding school and is mainly concerned with losing his virginity. The narrator is the son of Dyer's deceased friend, a mysterious, creepy character who seems to harbor a grudge against Dyer's family. Letters between Dyer and the narrator's father, interspersed throughout the narrative, reveal behavior by Dyer that has had tragic consequences. VERDICT Like Jonathan Franzen, Gilbert (The Normals) works on an expansive canvas as he examines the tragedies and comedies of a modern American family. He knows New York's Upper East Side intimately, and he has created a memorable curmudgeon in his portrait of an aging writer that will delight many readers.--James Coan, SUNY at Oneonta Lib.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 April #5

The opening scene of Gilbert's finely textured new novel (after The Normals) isn't supposed to be a puffed-up affair, but it might as well be: A.N. Dyer, one of New York's hermetic literary giants, is scheduled to deliver the eulogy for his childhood friend Charlie Topping. What follows in this grandiose novel full of dissatisfied men and erudite posturing is a vivid and often amusing portrait of the New York's Upper East Side literary scene, as relayed by the dearly departed's son, Philip. Through Philip's idolatrous and therefore unreliable perspective (and in a few interspersed letters between his father and Dyer), the writer's life is exposed, from his foibles to his successes past and present, including the publication of his widely heralded masterpiece, Ampersand; his attempt at renewing ties with his estranged sons, Richard (an ex-drug addict and aspiring screenwriter) and Jamie (a burned-out documentary filmmaker); and his fervent preoccupation with ensuring the welfare of a third, much younger son, Andy, who was born out of mysterious circumstances 17 years prior. There's a lot to digest and reflect on in this ambitious and crowded narrative--the complicated bond between fathers and sons, the illusive nature of success and the price of fame--and the ailing author's angst-ridden waning years are placed in a harsh spotlight. As a counterbalance, Gilbert is at his best when capturing the fearless, testosterone-driven essence of adolescence, as Andy flits from boozing and deflecting empty banter at a swanky book-release party at the Frick, to chasing skirts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, to trying to outsmart and outrun his father's ever-persistent legacy. Agent: Bill Clegg, WME Entertainment. (June)

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