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Brothers: 26 Stories of Love and Rivalry

Andrew Blauner (Editor), Frank McCourt (Foreword by)
ISBN: 978-0-470-45889-1
320 pages
March 2009, Jossey-Bass
Brothers: 26 Stories of Love and Rivalry (0470458895) cover image


"The next best thing to not having a brother (as I do not) is to have Brothers."
Gay Talese

Here is a tapestry of stories about the complex and unique relationship that exists between brothers. In this book, some of our finest authors take an unvarnished look at how brothers admire and admonish, revere and revile, connect and compete, love and war with each other. With hearts and minds wide open, and, in some cases, with laugh-out-loud humor, the writers tackle a topic that is as old as the Bible and yet has been, heretofore, overlooked.

Contributors range in age from twenty-four to eighty-four, and their stories from comic to tragic. Brothers examines and explores the experiences of love and loyalty and loss, of altruism and anger, of competition and compassion—the confluence of things that conspire to form the unique nature of what it is to be and to have a brother.

“Brother.” One of our eternal and quintessential terms of endearment. Tobias Wolff writes, “The good luck of having a brother is partly the luck of having stories to tell.” David Kaczynski, brother of “The Unabomber”: “I’ll start with the premise that a brother shows you who you are—and also who you are not. He’s an image of the self, at one remove . . . You are a ‘we’ with your brother before you are a ‘we’ with any other.” Mikal Gilmore refers to brotherhood as a “fidelity born of blood.”

We’ve heard that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. But where do the apples fall in relation to each other? And are we, in fact, our brothers’ keepers, after all?

These stories address those questions and more, and are, like the relationships, full of intimacy and pain, joy and rage, burdens and blessings, humor and humanity.

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Table of Contents

Foreword (Frank McCourt).

Civil War (Benjamin and Fred Cheever).

Missing Parts (David Kaczynski).

The Sensations of Jim (David Maraniss).

My Brother, Life (with Apologies to Pasternak) (Phillip Lopate).

Secrets and Bones (Mikal Gilmore).

We Were Men (Richard Ford).

American Beauty (Ethan Canin).

Doing Time (John Edgar Wideman).

My Brother's a Keeper (Chris Bohjalian).

Headlock (Daniel Menaker).

A Drinking Life (Pete Hamill).

You Can't Kill the Rooster (David Sedaris).

Heavy Lifting (Geoffrey Wolff).

A Brother's Story (Tobias Wolff).

Documents (Charles D'Ambrosio).

Get Away from Me (Jim Shepard).

The Scarlet Ibis (James Hurst).

The Roberts Boys (Steven V. Roberts).

A Death in the Family (Dominick Dunne).

Jambon Dreams (Floyd Skloot).

Imagining Robert (Jay Neugeboren).

King of the Cleveland Beatniks (Herbert Gold).

The Accident (Gregory Orr).

Sacraments of Reconciliation (Jerald Walker).

Chang and Eng (Darin Strauss).

Brothers on Brotherhood (Nathaniel Rich and Simon Rich).

About the Editor and Contributors.


Sources and Permissions.

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Author Information

Andrew Blauner is founder of Blauner Books Literary Agency, editor of COACH: 25 Writers Reflect on People Who Made a Difference, and coeditor of Anatomy of Baseball.
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"Whether or not you have a brother, you’ll enjoy the entertaining, affecting tales collected here." —Penthouse (June 2009)

"Watch the boys in this rich anthology battle and booze, worship, envy, argue and die, and try not to think of your own brother. Brothers, edited by Andrew Blauner, is aptly subtitled 26 Stories of Love and Rivalry; by the end, you’ll wish there were a single word for that fraternal emotion ("lovalry"?) In this sampler with a surprising number of writer brothers (Wolffs, Cheevers, etc.) it’s David Kaczynski’s tale of recognizing the Unabomber in an older Ted that haunts and Rooster Sedaris who amuses, while Phillip Lobate, nails it, calling his brother "my personal metaphor for Life." (Playboy, May 2009)

"Editor Andrew Blauner has brought together some amazing literary lions to tell their tales about their brothers and the result is breathtaking, stunning, moving, more than a little heartbreaking, hysterical in places, and often completely overwhelming….Brothers is a remarkable compilation. Nothing quite like it comes to mind. Its force is electrifying and lasts well beyond the reading: the writers’ voices resonating long after the book is closed." (Blogcritics, April 2009)

"[Brothers] will quite likely appeal to readers in their parental roles, to women with brothers, and just about everybody else in one manner or another." -The Denver Post (July 2009)

"[Brothers] is a wonderful read dealing with the funny, sad, complex, comforting, competitive relationships between brothers. I can't wait for Andrew Blauner to come out with ‘Sisters.’ Highly recommended." (Travel Watch, 2009)

"Among a number of similar titles aimed at sisters, this collection is as nostalgic and intimate as any. At least a handful of these tales will connect with anyone who's a brother, or who has one." -PublishersWeekly.com (June 29,2009)

"This book is like a big brother reminding you of what is important in life. It will make you want to pick up the phone and call out: Brother where art thou?" - The Boston Globe (June 2009) 

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. (Kirkus Reviews, April 2009)

People Are Talking About Brothers

“Grown men do most of their living and dying in a relatively peaceful coalition of wives, partners, children, friends, colleagues, and aging parents. But a brother remains a figure of almost mythic proportions: the one mortal with whom the fight for love is never won, never lost, and only partly understood. Here are brutally honest war stories from such veteran brotherhoods of contemporary American literature as the scrappy McCourts, the storied Cheevers, the fighting Dunnes, the lovely Lopates, the Wolffs in Brooks Brothers clothing. David Kaczynski’s fearless, tender, and almost unbearably painful tale of learning to be the brother of the Unabomber is a searing metaphor for the mystery—and murder—in the heart of every brother, whether you are a Cain or an Abel.”
David Michaelis, author,  Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography

“This book choked me up and made me laugh. It also infuriated me, moved me, challenged me, and in the end left me feeling glad, above all else, that it existed. In other words, reading it was almost exactly like how I feel about my own brother. These wonderful stories should be read by anyone curious about this unique, and uniquely shaping, bond.”
Tom Bissell, author, The Father of All Things 

“Andrew Blauner has invited an all-star team of writers to visit an underexplored subject. The results are moving and revealing.”
Peter D. Kramer, author, Listening to Prozac and Against Depression, and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown University

“How to understand the mysteries in our own families with our siblings, the laboratories of so much of how we play out our lives? Brothers is riveting—an important addition to sibling literature. A band of brothers grappling with their triumphs and failures, fierce loyalties and betrayals. Daniel Menaker astonishes with his heartbreaking and searing essay on his brother’s death—and his own misplaced sense of personal responsibility. Must reading for all brothers—and their sisters.”
Marie Brenner, author, Apples and Oranges: My Brother and Me, Lost and Found

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