& Sons by David Gilbert

& Sons 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. (June)

Originally in print and posted on PublishersWeekly.com April 29, 2013

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