Literary notables write about the rough-and-tumble bond between brothers.
Novelist Frank McCourt’s rollicking essay detailing each of his brothers’ strengths and weaknesses is a fitting introduction to literary agent Blauner’s assortment of sibling ruminations. First up is the friendly fire exchanged between Benjamin and Fred Cheever, who take turns volleying their opinions on each other and how they separately perceived their upbringing in the shadow of a Pulitzer Prize–winning father. In “Secrets and Bones,” Rolling Stone writer Mikal Gilmore reflects on the nature of family ties—a “fidelity born of blood”—during a bittersweet reunion with his “relinquished” brother Frank. Ethan Canin’s “American Beauty” touches on the frivolity and melodramatic intercourse of family. Tobias Wolff’s recollection, one of the best in the compilation, examines the “shambles of a summer” spent with his brother Geoffrey in the wake of their father’s nervous breakdown. David Sedaris offers an amusingly over-the-top, potty-mouthed family fable. Coming to terms with his brother Robert’s harrowingly sad mental illness becomes Jay Neugeboren’s key to happiness. David Kaczynski dissects life with “Unabomber” brother Ted as he describes the drastic repercussions of Ted’s cumulative psychological deterioration. Insisting it was “veneration” and not rivalry, Chris Bohjalian describes his motivation in mimicking his brother’s younger years, while rivalry certainly propels Daniel Menaker’s footnote-laden tale of family dynamics. Blauner (co-editor: Anatomy of Baseball, 2008, etc.) closes the anthology with a hilarious interview of Nathaniel and Simon Rich, who animate the push-pull fraternization of close-knit brothers.
An accomplished paean to brotherly love.