Antrim, Donald 1959(?)-
Antrim, Donald 1959(?)-
Born c. 1959 in New York, NY; grew up in Brooklyn, NY.
Home—New York, NY.
Nominated for PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, 1998, for The Hundred Brothers; named one of New Yorker's "Twenty Writers for the Twenty-first Century," 1999; awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.
Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World (novel), Viking (New York, NY), 1993.
The Hundred Brothers (novel), Crown (New York, NY), 1997.
The Verificationist (novel), Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2000.
The Afterlife (memoir), Farrar, Straus and Giroux (New York, NY), 2006.
Contributor to the New Yorker.
Donald Antrim, according to Eric Wittmershaus in an online Flak profile, "is regularly mentioned alongside postmodern heavyweights like Thomas Pynchon, David Foster Wallace and Donald Barthelme." Speaking to Wittmershaus, Antrim offhandedly remarked that receiving such accolades is exciting, "though I would say that I don't carry around praise or approbation for very long before I forget it all and feel lost and doomed as usual." Doomed, added Wittmershaus, "would be an apt description for the narrators of his three novels," which New York Times critic A.O. Scott described as "exercises in unfettered fabulation, at once wildly inventive and meticulously controlled."
Antrim's books, including Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World and The Hundred Brothers, have been described by critics as darkly satirical. Elect Mr. Robinson tells of the title character's attempts to pacify the hallucinatory violence of a small town. In the New York Times Book Review Ed Weiner called Antrim "a writer of undeniable power and sensuality" whose "suburban gothic" style of novel contains characters "experiencing a wingding of a breakdown." Critic Dominick Donald commented in the Times Literary Supplement that Antrim's "dispassionate narrative, eye for self-mocking jargon, neatly judged irony and multi-layered construc- tion all work well on their own, but when put together, the layered narrative is obstructive, and the humour has no bite." In contrast, the novel was praised by a writer in the New Yorker as "richly funny, even whimsical, and bizarrely familiar."
Antrim's second novel, The Hundred Brothers, is literally the story of a clan of one hundred male siblings. "For mythic and satiric purposes," commented Hal Espen in the New York Times Book Review, the author "has concocted a fantastically large brood whose prodigious father is dead but still uninterred." The brothers, whose personalities vary to a wide degree, then join together to put to rest their father's remains. "Antrim is a fiercely intelligent writer," Espen concluded, "who maintains rigorous control over his material."
The Verificationist is narrated by Tom, "a clinical psychologist, faculty member at the Krakower Institute, advocate of its Young Women of Strength teen counseling program," and hapless organizer of a dinner for his colleagues at the local Pancake House, as Paul Maliszewski described it in Review of Contemporary Fiction. Not much for Tom comes easily, even a query as to the health of his wife sends him into internal conflict: "Why was I unable to respond with a simple, perfunctory answer to this meaningless, polite question? It was because I was intuitively aware that Escobar wanted to make love to my wife."
A "comedy of bad manners," as Time critic R.Z. Sheppard labeled it, The Verificationist has Tom spitting water at his psychologist peers, propping trash cans against their office doors, and causing a scene at the Pancake House. Antrim "is a manic prose stylist," declared a Publishers Weekly critic, "capable of balancing lush pastoral descriptions with outrageous turbocharged riffs on sex and marriage and psychoanalysis." While Edward St. John, writing in Library Journal, thought the novel keeps readers "at arm's length" compared to The Hundred Brothers, Trevor Lewis, writing in London's Sunday Times, found more to recommend: "There is a method and a message here concerning the fragile emotional threads that tether us to reality and sanity." The Verificationist, concluded Andrew Roe in a Salon.com review, "goes further than Antrim's previous novels. It's more brazen, more shot through with the raw ache of relationships and the nakedness of emotional experience, with the tragedy of our inability to connect."
Antrim turns from fiction to memoir with his 2006 The Afterlife, the story of his controlling, alcoholic, and artistic mother who died of cancer in 2000. Antrim uses a "tone … of bitter, matter-of-fact comedy, or else a kind of deadpan at least as devastating as any howl of anguish," according Scott, to recount memories of his eccentric uncle, his father who twice married Antrim's mother, his own reactions to being alternately ignored and smothered by his mother, and his efforts to come to terms with her death. Reviewers generally found that Antrim's memoir gave new life to that genre. Writing in Newsweek, Cathleen McGuigan found it a "stunning" as well as "heartbreaking" work, further praising Antrim as an "elegantly spare writer." Similarly, a Kirkus Reviews critic called The Afterlife an "elegant memoir" and a "luminous meditation on the past." Further praise came from Booklist contributor Donna Seaman, who termed The Afterlife "elegiac," and from Mark Alan Williams, writing in Library Journal, who felt the work was "poignant but also uplifting." For a Publishers Weekly reviewer, the same work was a "compassionate portrait of a flawed and destructive woman."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Antrim, Donald, The Verificationist, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2000.
Antrim, Donald, The Afterlife, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (New York, NY), 2006.
Booklist, April 15, 2006, Donna Seaman, review of The Afterlife, p. 20.
Hartford Courant (Hartford, CT), July 2, 2006, Carole Goldberg, review of The Afterlife.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2006, review of The Afterlife, p. 215.
Library Journal, January, 2000, Edward St. John, review of The Verificationist, p. 154; April 15, 2006, Mark Alan Williams, review of The Afterlife, p. 75.
Newsweek, June 5, 2006, Cathleen McGuigan, "A Death in the Family," review of The Afterlife, p. 59.
New Yorker, October 25, 1993, review of Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World, p. 131.
New York Times, June 18, 2006, A.O. Scott, review of The Afterlife.
New York Times Book Review, November 7, 1993, Ed Weiner, review of Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World, p. 20; March 30, 1997, Hal Espen, review of The Hundred Brothers; February 20, 2000, Dwight Garner, "More Coffee? Wonder What She Meant by That?," p. 9; March 25, 2001, Scott Veale, review of The Verificationist, p. 28.
Publishers Weekly, January 17, 2000, review of The Verificationist, p. 43; March 6, 2005, review of The Afterlife, p. 55.
Review of Contemporary Fiction, summer, 2000, Paul Maliszewski, review of The Verificationist, p. 179.
Sunday Times (London, England), May 7, 2000, Trevor Lewis, review of The Verificationist, p. 50.
Time, February 28, 2000, R.Z. Sheppard, review of The Verificationist, p. 100.
Times Literary Supplement, September 24, 1993, Dominick Donald, review of Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World, p. 20; April 21, 2001, Nick Laird, review of The Verificationist, p. 22.
Wall Street Journal, March 17, 2000, Andrew Horton, review of The Verificationist, p. W9.
Bold Type,http:// www.randomhouse.com/boldtype/ (February, 2000), Larry Weissman, "Donald Antrim."
Flak,http:// www.flakmag.com/ (April 1, 2000), Eric Wittmershaus, "Donald Antrim: An Interview."
Salon.com,http:// www.salon.com/ (February 2, 2000), Andrew Roe, "The Verificationist."