At Literary Affairs, we are constantly on the lookout for books that offer insight into the human heart while also engaging our sophisticated readers intellectually. When a novel can do both, while also being superbly written, we are delighted. & Sons, David Gilbert’s latest book, is a great American novel about a great American novel. Or, rather, novelist. Though the novelist in question is the fictional A.N. Dyer, the parallels between him and the perpetually intriguing J.D. Salinger will be obvious to anyone who read Catcher in The Rye as a teenager and became an instant devotee of the iconic scribe of adolescent angst. In Gilbert’s novel, the aging Dyer, author of a book that made him, at 28, the “youngest person ever to win the Pulitzer” is brought to life through the voice of Philip Topping, the self-consciously unreliable narrator who, as the son of Dyer’s recently deceased best friend and a failed novelist himself, hero-worships the great author even as he examines with microscopic scrutiny the troubled relationships he has with his own three sons. In fact, it is the psychological depth with which father/son relationships are probed in Gilbert’s novel that, as much as its clever use and manipulation of the story of a mythic and mythologized author, makes it great. That this novel maintains its psychological truth while being formally creative enough to contain novels within novels, and even a splash of zany science fiction (you have to read it to find out where), is a testament to the talent of its author, a novelist who, with this book, is sure to become, like his Salinger-inspired character, a household name in American fiction.
About the Author
David Gilbert is the author of The Normals and the short story collection Remote Feed. His stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, GQ, and Bomb. He lives in New York City with his wife and three children.
Beyond the Book