With a New Introduction by Jonathan Franzen
There’s Rob, Bob, Tom, Paul, Ralph, and Noah; Nick, Dennis, Bertram, Russell, and Virgil. The doctor, the documentary filmmaker, and the sculptor in burning steal; the eldest, the youngest, and the celebrated “perfect” brother, Benedict. In Donald Antrim’s mordantly funny novel The Hundred Brothers, our narrator and his colossal fraternity of ninety-eight brothers (one couldn’t make it) have assembled in the crumbling library of their family’s estate for a little sinister fun. Executed with the invention and intelligence of Barthelme and Pynchon, Antrim’s taxonomy of male specimens is in equal proportions disturbing and absurdly hilarious.
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.