The Sisters Brothersby Patrick deWitt Published 26 Apr 2011
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Hermann Kermit Warm is going to die. The enigmatic and powerful man known only as the Commodore has ordered it, and his henchmen, Eli and Charlie Sisters, will make sure of it. Though Eli doesn't share his brother's appetite for whiskey and killing, he's never known anything else. But their prey isn't an easy mark, and on the road from Oregon City to Warm's gold-mining claim outside Sacramento, Eli begins to question what he does for a living - and whom he does it for.
With The Sisters Brothers, Patrick deWitt pays homage to the classic Western, transforming it into an unforgettable comic tour de force. Filled with a remarkable cast of characters - losers, cheaters, and ne'er-do-wells from all stripes of life - and told by a complex and compelling narrator, it is a violent, lustful odyssey through the underworld of the 1850s frontier that beautifully captures the humor, melancholy, and grit of the Old West and two brothers bound by blood, violence, and love.
"The Sisters Brothers" Reviews
The Sisters Brothersو Patrick deWitt
The Sisters Brothers (2011) is a historical novel by Canadian-born author Patrick deWitt.
تاریخ نخستین خوانش: بیست و دوم فوریه سال 2013 میلادی
عنوان: برادران سیسترز؛ نویسنده: پاتریک دویت؛ مترجم: پیمان خاکسار؛ مشخصات نشر: تهران، به نگار، چاپ دوم 1391، در 279 ص، اندازه 5/14 در 5/21 س.م.، شابک: 9789646332850؛ چاپ سوم: تهران، زاوش، 1392؛ شابک: 9786007283196؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، نشر چشمه، 1393؛ شابک: 9786002294937؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان امریکای شمالی، داستانهای نویسندگان کانادایی، قرن 21 م
پیشتر از این کتاب بنوشته بودم، دیگری را خوش نیامده، و حذف شده، شاید هم به مقصد نرسیده باشد، در کامپیوترم بود، اما دوباره آن نوشته را نکاشتم، برادران سیسترز وسترنی سیاه، تفکربرانگیز و در عین حال کمیک است. پاتریک دوویت هنگام نوشتن این کتاب، تحت تاثیر مجموعه داستانی قدیمی، مربوط به قرن نوزدهم بوده است. کتابی که آن را به طور تصادفی در یک حراجی پیدا میکند. ماجرای کتاب درباره ی زندگی دو برادر به نامهای: ایلای و چارلی با نام خانوادگی: سیسترز، است. دو آدمکش که شهرت بسیاری دارند. و ...؛ ا. شربیانی
What the....really not sure what I just read. Yippie-yi-yo-kaye?
Like the *cover it's edgy, aptly tagged as 'cowboy noir'. Avoid it if you’re looking for a traditional western, no white hats, no riding happily off into the sunset. Same thing if you look for nice characters to bond with. A couple of hired guns Eli and brother Charlie Sisters aren’t particularly likeable unless you have a soft spot for psychopaths, Eli’s border-line and brother Charlie full-blown. Hey, they had a tough childhood.
Read this if like me you’re not particularly into westerns, you just like books that are different, original. It IS bent, but it's also fun, a rip-roaring yarn with prospectors, gun fights, whores and drunks. There’s even a witch, and an inventor by the name of Hermann Warm. Such an amiable fellow almost a shame to kill him.
It's Eli’s story, narrated in this cool, dispassionate almost formal tone, I loved the dialog. A remorseful killer with a philosophical streak "here is another miserable mental image I will have to catalog and make room for" and the heart of a poet. He consorts with whores "I knew in my heart it was false, and afterward always felt remote and caved in." He'd rather be with a lady but really needs to work on his come-on lines. "Dear Miss, I wish you would wash your face and be nice to me. I have money”
I did like him, figure anyone who gets all excited about a toothbrush can’t be all bad.
Warning: There’s this whole bit with poor Tub the horse. Didn’t ruin the story but uuggh... I guess I understood where he was going with it. [spoilers removed] So squint your eyes, skim, do what you have to and remember it's fiction☺
*Cover art by Dan Stiles: Fun to see such excitement over a cover, a win-win for the author and the artist. Stiles is from Portland, Oregon, seems he's been specializing in promo for rock bands - found this link to his work if you want to check him out "http://www.danstiles.com/"
A-yep. The Western is dead.
Yeah, I'm happy too, because I love stories about the bloody history of the not-so-new world. As much as I love the great Western classics, their time is up. The Western has carried a lot of negative shit in its saddle-bags, shit that needs to be buried with it. The Western began as Historical Fiction, obviously, but it's popularity soon made it a genre all it's own, one especially overloaded with clichés and predictability. It started selling myths as political propaganda, and things got twisted up and confused. The Western and The Duke became symbols of an old, outmoded way of thinking: it was the world-view of fat, old, cigar-chomping, far-right assholes, as far as the younger generation was concerned; and the Western has never really been cool since then, with a few notable exceptions. But the real West is full up with fascinating stories to tell, some compelling history for novelists to dance around as they make shit up. So the death of the Western, making way for new visions of the old West, and rejoining Historical Fiction... it's all good news to me.
[Relax, Doc. 'Tombstone' was all manner of bullet-riddled goodness.]
Clint Eastwood and David Peoples' 'Unforgiven', and the Coen brother's version of 'True Grit': at once the last of the great Westerns, and the greatest Westerns ever made. Newer entries, like Tarantino's 'Django Unchained' and 'The Hateful Eight' are thrilling attempts at simultaneous homage and deconstruction. 'The Burrowers' and 'Bone Tomahawk' are both gruesome, remarkably similar but entertaining horror films, both set deep into the unsettled frontier, where evolutionary diversions more monster than human hunt white men and Native Americans alike. Western deconstruction, satire, genre mash-up... but the old Western, which was the Myth of the American Frontier, the propaganda, is dead.
In books, Louis L'Amour and Zane Grey are very dated. Cormac McCarthy, James Carlos Blake, Ron Hansen, Larry McMurtry, and Charles Frazier are the reigning lords of the hard-eyed American historical novel, but not one them has written a proper 'western'. 'Blood Meridian' can't be called a 'western', any more than 'Wildwood Boys' or 'Desperadoes'. Larry McMurtry comes closest to embracing the tropes of the 'western' genre, but only for the sake of subverting reader expectations. The frontier was not settled by singing cowboys. Native Americans weren't simple savages, but they weren't the noble nature-loving quasi-Buddhists that became the Hollywood cliché in the late-sixties and seventies. The 'New World' was a brutal, vicious battleground, where every random encounter between strangers would very likely end violently.
Patrick DeWitt has joined this impressive company with `The Sisters Brothers', a novel that combines the flawlessly crafted prose of fellow Canadian Michael Ondaatje or Charles Frazier, with a darkly comical tale that suggests Charles Portis and James Carlos Blake - particularly his brutal masterpiece `In the Rogue Blood'. Like the latter, DeWitt's book is a story about brothers who are born killers made for a bloody world; like the former, it has a darkly comedic intelligence.
As a Canadian myself, I felt bad about NOT feeling bad about the lack of native literary fiber in my pulp-heavy diet. Ondaatje, yes. Atwood, sure. But beyond `Oryx and Crake', I can't remember the last time I read another Canadian novel. Tony Burgess and `Pontypool Changes Everything', I guess, preceded by the loosely connected stories in `The Hellmouths of Bewdley'... 10, 15 years ago. Which means that I'm confessing to being a bad Canadian. Even before Jian Ghomeshi was unmasked as Jack the Ripper, I still fled in terror when `Canada Reads' infected the CBC airwaves with its suitably terrifying frontman (anyone who could create music as undeniably evil as the sonic terrorism of Moxy Fruvous had to house rows of retractable shark teeth behind that smile)...
I feel like Dewitt has finally crafted Canlit that doesn't feel like a homework assignment. `The Sisters Brothers' is a cocaine counterpoint to the literary laxatives of `Two Solitudes' and `The Stone Angel'. If the point of using Hugh-fucking-McLennan and Margaret-fucking-Lawrence was to scare kids away from Canlit forever - brilliant. They could also have value as practical demonstrations of Relativity: narrative black holes clearly distorting space-time; when you manage to break free of the oppressive gravitational pull, hours have passed... and you're still on the same page.
It's probably true that those wacky kids would hate any book they're forced to read. But the chances of creating an entire generation of anti-Canlit jihadists will be significantly reduced if we take a sledge-hammer to `The Stone Angel' and go with `The Sisters Brothers' instead. Unless teenagers completely suck. I'm willing to consider that possibility.
Eli and Charlie Sisters are cold-blooded killers employed by a man known as `The Commodore'. Eli is the narrator of the tale, and he often defers to his brother. Eli has a soft streak that Charlie doesn't seem to possess, showing a sympathy and occasional empathy that is totally inappropriate for a hired gun. Charlie is a very different person - lean and quick and calculating, with a violent temper that often affects his trigger finger... his primary source of income.
Okay. Sure. Something like that.
The story opens in Oregon City, as the Sisters brothers set out on orders to murder a prospector named Hermann Kermit Warm, whom the Commodore has denounced simply as a thief. Their journey to San Francisco is an eventful one, and Charlie begins to express anger with The Commodore, and dissatisfaction with their arrangement. Upon arriving in the city, they track down a friend of Warm's, who reveals some very interesting details concerning the German prospector's partnership and subsequent falling-out with The Commodore. It involves a method of finding and extracting gold from riverbeds, based on a chemical of Warm's devising. He absconded with his work and secrets when he realized that his partner would certainly kill him once the formula was done. Eli and Charlie now must decide between loyalty to their employer, and a chance to get rich by betraying him.
In between, `The Sisters Brothers' is rich to overflowing with fascinating characters and stories. The dynamic between Eli and Charlie provides one of the more memorable fictional relationships I've come across in recent years. This is one of my new favorites, and it feels super patriotic to say that Patrick DeWitt is one of my favorite authors. He's helping to save fiction in Canada, with a story that cleverly avoids being Canadian in any way. We don't need books about elderly women living in Moosefuck Alberta, we just need great stories told with style and passion. If someone says that Canadian Literature doesn't need saving - smite them with a righteous vengeance... or politely take exception... or meekly slink off in the opposite direction. It's all good.
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A Mysterious Review That Might Be Related to the Book in Question, But Written By A Friend Instead
When the Commodore orders the Sisters brothers to kill Herman Kermit Warm and take his mysterious formula, they have no idea the series of misadventures they will endure in the undertaking.
I've been interested in this book forever and nabbed it on the cheap when it popped up on one of my ebook newsletter things. It may have been that my expectations were too high but this didn't live up to the hype for me.
I liked the characters of Eli and Charlie Sister, natural born killers in the old west. They were funny at times and brutal at others. I also liked the overly-formal Western dialog with few contractions, much like the Coehn brothers version of True Grit. I suspect the novel has the same style of dialog but I've yet to read it. It also reminded me of Richard Brautigan's The Hawkline Monster at times.
The book is described as being a picaresque adventure, which it is. It's also not a very interesting one for long stretches at a time. I loved the writing but I kept getting drowsy while reading it. I've never before been torn between my admiration for writing and my desire to toss a book back on the unread pile for something more interesting.
I did like it more than I thought it was bland, though. There were enough twists and reversals of fortune to keep me from drooling on my Kindle. There were a few close calls, though. Three out of five stars.
The Sisters Brothers is the son of True Grit, a funny, heartbreaking 5 star novel from 1968. Same genre – unconsciously-hilarious wild west memoir written in curious stiff slightly formal and stilted but purely beautiful language beginning at the beginning and driving the surprising narrative always forward without stopping to apologise to all the dead people and animals encountered en route.
At this point you may say that this thing has also been done recently and won a big bad Booker for itself - True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey. Yes, it is very similar, but Peter Carey over egged his pudding to a most nauseating level. You could not believe a word of it. It was catwalk fashion, it wasn’t what people really wear. Patrick DeWitt does not make this mistake.
Pedants and proofreaders may go a little crosseyed looking at the title, their eyes searching searching for the missing apostrophe – surely it should be The Sisters’ Brothers? But could they have made such a terrific error? No error, this is the story of two guns for hire whose surname is Sisters, and is narrated by the frankly fat one (he goes on a diet around page 50) Eli Sisters. They are already famous for shooting people and this is the story of how they came to change their ungodly lifestyle.
All the way through Eli struggles with the horrible stuff these brothers find themselves doing. He doesn’t want to shoot all these people but he finds he seems to have to. It’s upsetting. He gets so mad at these people making him have to shoot them that he wants to shoot them. What a conundrum!
Horses, especially a wonky donkey of a horse called Tub, feature very prominently. Strong believers in animal rights and all vegans should be advised that there are more than a few scenes in here that are guaranteed to make all individual hairs on their body, should they have any, stand straight up perpendicularly. Poor old Tub. And what happens to the beavers is most distressing too.
What happened to the fifth star? Well, Eli Sisters is a compelling narrator all right but him and his brother are a tough sell. They’re really not nice people! And the ending, the one after the actual ending, was strange, like one of those unresolved chords they sometimes end a song with.
So, 4.5 stars. Don’t feel bad Mr DeWitt, I don’t never hardly give out 4.5 stars.
This book has the coolest cover ever. What’s great, though, is that the coolness doesn’t end there.
Charlie and Eli sisters are Gold Rush–era contract killers. They’re hired for what Eli hopes to be their last job, as he’d much prefer to hang his holster and settle down with a nice girl—or failing that, the first trollop that crosses his path. It makes no difference to him, really (dude is such a sweetheart). Charlie, on the other hand, is the less sensitive one. It’d be tougher to convince him to make sound retirement plans, what with the allure of all that cash and booze that accompanies “the job.”
Sounds like the makings of some brilliant Coen brothers film, doesn’t it? In fact, this book is brilliant. It is light and humorous without being superficial, it is touching and poignant without being sappy, and with dialogue redolent of Deadwood, I have to wonder if David Milch didn’t have a consulting role here. Although maybe that’s really the way people spoke in the latter half of the 19th century, in which case, never you mind.
But truly, this book deserves any praise it receives. It’s a pleasurable read with vividly entertaining characters, and the only thing disappointing about it is that it ends far too quickly.
P.S. Don’t pretend this book doesn’t remind you of Seth Bullock.