Brothers: What the Van Goghs, Booths, Marxes, Kelloggs--And Colts--Tell Us about How Siblings Shape Our Lives and History (Paperback)
From the bestselling National Book Award finalist, a "masterful blend of history and memoir" ("San Francisco Chronicle") featuring the author's three brothers as well as iconic brothers in history--John and Henry David Thoreau; Vincent and Theo van Gogh; John Harvey and Will Kellogg; Edwin and John Wilkes Booth; and Harpo, Chico, Groucho, Gummo, and Zeppo Marx.
In alternate chapters, Colt parallels his quest to understand how his own brothers shaped his life with an examination of the complex relationships between famous brothers in history. Edwin Booth grew up to become the greatest actor on the nineteenth-century American stage while his younger brother John grew up to assassinate a president. Will Kellogg worked for his overbearing older brother John Harvey as a subservient yes-man for two decades until he finally broke free and launched the cereal empire that outlasted all his brother's enterprises. Vincent van Gogh would never have survived without the financial and emotional support of his younger brother, Theo, in a claustrophobic relationship that both defined and confined them. Henry David Thoreau's life was shadowed by the early death of his older brother, John, who haunted and inspired his writing. And the Marx brothers collaborated on the screen but competed offstage for women, money, and fame.
"Brilliantly conceived, daringly organized, endlessly fascinating" ("The Dallas Morning News"), this book is a revelation for any parent of sons, any sibling, anyone curious about how a man's life can be molded by his brothers. Colt's magnificent book is a history told through the lens of fraternal rivalry--and love.
About the Author
George Howe Colt is the bestselling author of The Big House, which was a National Book Award finalist and a New York Times notable book of the year, and November of the Soul: The Enigma of Suicide. He lives in Western Massachusetts with his wife, Anne Fadiman, and their two children.
Praise for Brothers: What the Van Goghs, Booths, Marxes, Kelloggs--And Colts--Tell Us about How Siblings Shape Our Lives and History…
“A masterful blend of history and memoir…”
“A great book—brilliantly conceived, daringly organized, endlessly fascinating...”
“Part memoir, part exhaustively researched biography of famous brothers and how they drove each other, loved each other, fought, drove each other crazy, and supported each other through craziness…Insightful and harrowing and funny and stacked with stories.”
“Anyone who’s had the pleasure of reading Colt’s previous, National Book Award-nominated work, The Big House, will know his delicate, detailed, ironically self-mocking way with prose, and his lucid, affectionate fair-mindedness. . .Colt has done a prodigious job of research and synthesis, and his skill at storytelling is such that each of them is transformed into something fresh, dramatic, and emotionally piercing.”
“Colt writes movingly and insightfully about how the mercurial fraternal relationships can so quickly move from loving idolatry to hands-around-the-throat…This is one fine book, both wildly entertaining and utterly thought-provoking.”
-Richard C. Morais
“Vivid and psychologically revealing…”
“Detailed considerations…of well-known brothers and cameo references to many others, famous and not so, help Colt in his quest to explain the mystery of how siblings can be so different from one another.”
“Colt elegantly captures the complicated dynamics between brothers that both bind and define them, as well as the evolving relationships between his own brothers as they move into middle age.”
“Colt is an acute observer and sensitive chronicler of male emotion…Searingly poignant.”
“Colt’s fine writing, extensive research, and thoughtful analysis make Brothers a meaty, pleasurable read.”
“The brotherly counterpoint between fierce rivalry and stalwart affection is teased out in this absorbing meditation on family dynamics…No one writers better than Colt about families and the strange alchemy that binds them, and the way siblings make each other what they are even as they become distinct, even estranged, personalities.”
“An enjoyable read for members of small and large broods alike…”
“The second of four brothers, [Colt] perceptively explores his fraught relationship with them—the competitiveness and conflicts, the yearning for a closeness that would not come until several decades had passed—in the context of an often wistful memoir of an…American family in the 1950s and ‘60s.”
“As soon as I started reading Brothers, I found myself talking about it to everyone I saw. You will want to give it to people in your life. George Howe Colt is a master at balancing the personal and the universal, and the book makes a powerful case for sibling rivalry—and love—as a driving force not just in individual lives but in the world.”
-Maile Meloy, author of Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It and Liars and Saints
“A master craftsman of literary nonfiction, George Howe Colt brilliantly conjoins history and memoir, insight and humor—not to mention Cain and Abel, Groucho and Harpo. Every page of this book is a pleasure.”
-Adam Goodheart, author of 1861: The Civil War Awakening
"A captivating blend of historical anecdote, personal revelation, and psychological insight, this lively and imaginative book will serve up a great deal of wisdom (and just as much fun) to anyone who has ever been a brother or had a brother. In fact, maybe all you have to do to derive pleasure and nourishment from Colt's book is simply to have once met a brother—it’s that appealing."
-Daniel Okrent, author of Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition