The Brothers

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After Del Tribute almost sleeps with his brother's sexually edgy wife, Margaret, The Brothers sets out to trace and detail the intricate pattern of consequence of this near-indiscretion. In a remarkable performance that redefines and extends the territory of Frederick Barthelme's fictions, the love and desire of these brothers is laid open, explored, experienced. Along with his new girlfriend, Jen, a rough kid who publishes her own little terrorzine and just finished living in the back of a van with a guy who ...
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Overview

After Del Tribute almost sleeps with his brother's sexually edgy wife, Margaret, The Brothers sets out to trace and detail the intricate pattern of consequence of this near-indiscretion. In a remarkable performance that redefines and extends the territory of Frederick Barthelme's fictions, the love and desire of these brothers is laid open, explored, experienced. Along with his new girlfriend, Jen, a rough kid who publishes her own little terrorzine and just finished living in the back of a van with a guy who sells bikinis to tourists, Del tries to repair the damage he imagines is done to his relation with his brother Bud, and in the process tries to recapture and reinvent the sense of family long missing from his life. This all happens in Biloxi, on the dirty, soured, dinky coast of Mississippi, pretty much as it is right now: blisteringly hot, sandy, under construction, but still oddly foreign and magical. With these middle-class folks as his primary cast, Barthelme deftly demonstrates that there is enough beauty and wonder in ordinary life to satisfy all of us, if we only watch out for it - watch out for the light decaying over black trees, the raid that creeps up windshields, the sight and sound and smell of everyday. In The Brothers, bit players skewer the stiffs of the culture, the runaways add runaway priests, the do-gooders, the way-too-earnest and the way-too-cynical, the fairly smart, the broadcast morons who for God knows what reasons we attend night after night. And when they drive in this novel - and they do drive - the highway is a big sculpture, a stage for drifters, boneheads, self-parodies, error-handlers, a ride-through zoo where we witness the many edges of cultural disenchantment, where we are the exhibit and the sightseer, too. At heart The Brothers is concerned with loyalty, fidelity, decency. It is a work as rich in depth and detail as it is reflective on its jewel-like, sun-splintered surface. The world fashioned here is a terrifyingly e
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Editorial Reviews

David Shields
Never has the world, in a Barthelme novel, looked so lovely, more worth celebrating.
Michiko Kakutani
Barthelme's characters succeed in stepping beyond the generic… They emerge as real individuals, amusing and selfish, vexing yet somehow poignant.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's 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. (Sept.)
Michiko Kakutani
"Barthelme has managed to reinvent highly familiar material with new vigor and insights....In 'The Brothers,' (he) has split his architypal middle-aged hero into two characters...and we come to understand both their shifting balance of power and the circumstances that have brought them to their current emotional impasse." -- The New York Times
Robert Boyd
"The Brothers is rich with implications and full of delightful images. It takes the virtues of minimalism and build on the to produce a story that resonates long after the last page has been turned." -- St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Kirkus Reviews
Barthelme's new publisher is returning to print some of his fiction, beginning with this, his novel from 1993, a tale of marital indiscretion and brotherly betrayal set in Biloxi, a familiar terrain in Barthelme's dark and contemporary social comedy. When one brother sleeps with his sister-in-law after the other brother takes off on a midlife-crisis jaunt, the situation begins to grow weird. "Kirkus "was amused by the "scathing portraiture" of the minor characters but exulted over Barthelme's description of Biloxi with "its tawdry but lovely gulfside edge." We also measured the advance in Barthelme's vision, " a new and fine melancholy never before quite as codified in Barthelme's fictional world." There's the unusual suggestion of redemption, which "gives the book hope and some shape." The final image of brotherly revenge is indelible, making this, "Kirkus "suggested, "one of Barthelme's more haunting novels."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140132090
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 12/1/1994
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 5.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Early 90s Classic Lit

    Fredrick Barthelme is one of America's great writers. This novels accepts the influence of electronic media, but remains literature. In other words, he doesn't try to compete with electronic media like that hack Borroughs with his cut up, or the idiot Copeland with his jokes in the margin. These are people who go to malls, watch television, make references that a Dennis Miller would envy, yet still live inner lives and the reader cares about those inner lives. Although the sequel to this book, Painted Dessert, is not as good, The Brothers was the culmination of great writing, something his previous books, promised, and for the most part, delivered. But in Two Brothers, Bartheleme's sensibilities reworks the form of the novel somewhat. Also, the story is about men approaching middle age, and the relationship between two brothers, themes of course I find increasingly relevant. Bartheleme is better than Richard Ford or Thomas McGuane. The best practitioner of fiction of his generation. Plus, this could be the first appearance of the Internet in literature. The main character's girlfriend, who is in her 20s-the main character is in his 40s-downloads bizarre tales of the grotesque, appearing in early websites, and prints them up and staples them on telephone poles. This fascinating book is filled with observations about modern life and every time I read it, I discover another piece of previously overlooked wisdom. Please visit: timothyherrick.blogspot.com/

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