Magazine article The Spectator

After the Funeral

Magazine article The Spectator

After the Funeral

Article excerpt

& Sons by David Gilbert

Fourth Estate, £16.99, pp. 430,

ISBN 9780007552795

Spectator Bookshop, £13.99

I first mistook David Gilbert's second novel for the sort of corduroy-sleeved family saga at which American writers excel. The main character, Dyer, is an elderly author gathering his sons about him in Manhattan after the funeral of a boyhood friend, Charles. There's Richard, a Hollywood screen hack whose teenage journal Dyer lifted for a prize-winning novel; his half-brother Andy, 17, on a mission to pop his cherry with Dyer's sassy young agent; and Jamie, a documentary maker whose time-lapse footage of an ex-girlfriend's death from cancer has gone viral.

What muddies their stories is that they reach us via Charles's son, Philip, a frustrated writer who left his wife and kids for a 20-year-old Vicodin addict he met on a sex site. He once researched a thesis on Dyer's novels 'and the kidnapping of identity' - ominous - and he's 'always had an unfortunate tendency to spin myself into alternative universes'.

So when one scene lets slip that we're in a world where Sony Pictures can bankroll an Oscar-winning, multi-million-grossing adaptation of The Erasers, Alain RobbeGrillet's avant-garde policier, it's a sign that & Sons may not be quite the realist chronicle it seems. And that's before a story line about Alfred Nobel and human cloning.

Interleaved between chapters are facsimiles of letters Dyer sent Charles in his youth. The crabbed squiggles make hard reading but form a bedrock against which to judge the motives for Philip's outlandish narration. …

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