Join Patrick de Witt to talk about October's Book of the Month, The Sisters Brothers, Tuesday 6 November, 9-10pm

(112 Posts)

Another Booker-shortlisted masterpiece this month. THE SISTERS BROTHERS by Patrick de Witt was a 2011 contender, and the first ever western to make it onto the list. It is set in the 1850s, Gold Rush California, where the famous killers Eli and Charlie Sisters are on a job for the big boss, The Commodore. Eli is not your average hired gun. He unsuccessfully tries dieting, he's evangelical about his new toothpaste, he has complex loyalties to his horse, Tub. He's tenderhearted, protective and philosophical. He also has to watch out for his volatile brother, whose regular bouts of brandy-sickness and violence make their relationship somewhat fraught. But by the end of their madcap roadtrip, a strange kind of honour and truth emerges, far more precious than the gold that bewitches all around them.

If this novel were a movie, it would be directed by the Coen brothers: O Brother Where Art Thou? crossed with True Grit. But the strongest feeling that lingers after the last page is that it is just very much itself: blackly funny, exquisitely voiced, deeply human and completely original.

Our book of the month page has lots more about THE SISTERS BROTHERS and Patrick.

You can get a Kindle edition or a paperback copy of the novel here.

We are thrilled that Patrick will be joining us to discuss the book and answer any questions about THE SISTERS BROTHERS, the Booker and his writing career on Tuesday 6 November, 9-10pm. See you there...

gazzalw Fri 30-Nov-12 07:52:11

I assumed the formula contained mercury for some reason but just knew that it was going to turn out to be deeply toxic....;-(

SlubberMistressOfPain Thu 29-Nov-12 23:45:35

And RIP the beavers. Poor beavers.

Can't believe the formula was all made up! Was looking forward to a little chemistry essay at the end to explain what horrors were contained within.

Loved the book, well the audio book. The guy who reads it was absolutely sublime.

OatyBeatie Sun 25-Nov-12 18:06:50

I've just finished this excellent book. I'm sorry to have missed the discussion -- I was afraid to read in case of spoilers.

I enjoyed the book very much indeed. I loved the near-surrealism of it, which seemed partly achieved by the incongruity of the brothers' violence with the poetry of their thought and of the storytelling itself. Eli's gentleness and delicacy was wonderful, and achieved from the very first page.

It was very funny. (I am looking out on Amazon for a Conclusive Blanket) but so very sad. The black humour in the combination of violence and poetry seemed to convey what I think gets called incongruity of affect -- where we react with smiles to the most bleakly awful things because we are so overwhelmed and disorientated by them. It displayed just how lost Eli was.

I'm hoping my teenaged sons will read it now. I can imagine it appealing to them as much as to me, which is rare in a book.

I'll certainly look out for the film. I'll be worried, though, that so much of what is very original and beautiful in the book is close enough to some Western movie cliches to get coarsened in a film.

Poor Tub. I half expected his resurrection. RIP.

gazzalw Fri 16-Nov-12 15:23:35

Sorry, rather late to this discussion but I've just whizzed through this fantastic novel in a matter of days - it's the best page turner I've read for a long time and found the style and chapter lengths very accessible and easy to read on a commute with many changes.

I cannot quite put my finger on why I loved it so much but I was raised on cowboys films and this tapped into my psyche in a big way. It also really reminded me of that Johnny Depp film where everything that could go wrong for him on his travels does......

I did not find it graphically OTT at all. As others have posted, it was a very visual novel and any gruesomeness was really descriptive rather than being gratuitous! They were violent and rough times and nothing was saccharine, particularly in the 'Wild West'

I personally could not imagine Matt Le Blanc as Eli, but I see what the poster was getting at. One of the Bridges would be good but they've been there done that haven't they really?

DW also read it and really enjoyed it too - it was a picaresque novel and as such intriguing and you couldn't really begin to guess what would come on the next page...

I look forward to reading more of Patrick's novels!

PlusCaChange Tue 06-Nov-12 22:10:51

Thankyou Patrick and I hope the film gets made

PatrickdeWitt Tue 06-Nov-12 22:09:40

That's all we have time for, folks. As always, it has gone far too quickly and has been immensely enjoyable - thank you, everyone, for excellent questions and all your contributions

Most of all, Patrick - thank you very, very much indeed for giving your time and energy and wit and generosity. We really appreciate it.

And congratulations again on a stupendously good book. Can't wait to read whatever you write next (are you able to quickly tell us what your current project is?)

Good luck with the film option - we'll all be looking out for the posters soon.

I'm working on another novel, this one inspired by Central European and Jewish fables, folktales, etc. No wanking as yet, but it's still pretty early in the game. . .
Cheers, all.
xo
PD

That's all we have time for, folks. As always, it has gone far too quickly and has been immensely enjoyable - thank you, everyone, for excellent questions and all your contributions

Most of all, Patrick - thank you very, very much indeed for giving your time and energy and wit and generosity. We really appreciate it.

And congratulations again on a stupendously good book. Can't wait to read whatever you write next (are you able to quickly tell us what your current project is?)

Good luck with the film option - we'll all be looking out for the posters soon.

ShellyBobbs Tue 06-Nov-12 22:03:13

Thanks Patrick <waves>

Back2Two Tue 06-Nov-12 22:02:14

Bye. Look forward to reading more from you!

PatrickdeWitt Tue 06-Nov-12 22:01:24

Are we winding up? Well, thanks so much once again for having me. I'm sorry if I missed any questions. Best wishes to all of you. . . .

PatrickdeWitt Tue 06-Nov-12 22:00:14

TillyBookClub Tue 06-Nov-12 21:56:37
Yikes, we've only got 5 minutes left, so quickly flagging up Gerry's question too: If your book IS made into a film (which we're all assuming), do you have any strong feelings about the soundtrack?

I'd love to see some Moondog on there, and Michael Hurley.

PatrickdeWitt Tue 06-Nov-12 21:58:55

TillyBookClub Tue 06-Nov-12 21:49:59
Oh, and I'm going to be selfish and flag up my questions too:

Which childhood book most inspired you?
Tough question. I loved Roald Dahl and still do. A nice combination of bile and humor.

What would be the first piece of advice you would give anyone attempting to write fiction?
Just to read, is all. To read constantly, and to search out lesser known authors, living and dead.

(And, if we have time to answer this one, do you think women would have equally rushed for gold? did your research throw up any women who were out there with their own stake?) Good question! I suspect it would have been a more thoughtful process, less a mad cash grab, if more women had been involved in the process of gold removal.

Yikes, we've only got 5 minutes left, so quickly flagging up Gerry's question too: If your book IS made into a film (which we're all assuming), do you have any strong feelings about the soundtrack?

ShellyBobbs Tue 06-Nov-12 21:56:09

Matt Le Blanc for the dentist?

PatrickdeWitt Tue 06-Nov-12 21:54:25

Back2Two Tue 06-Nov-12 21:47:08
Hi Patrick. Just wanted to say hello, it's great to read tour answers i'm really enjoying the thred.

I loved The Sisters Brothers. And now, having read some of your answers I love it even more. I like that you're not forcing meaning/s on the reader. It seems like a gentle read with rough edges. A bit like Eli himself. And it would not be complete without the intermissions, even though I got a bit wrapped up with trying to find "the meaning". Now I know, I didn't have to. Thanks, you're a kind author with a lovely style.

I hope there is a film; Coen brothers maybe?
Thanks very much. I hope there's film, also. I'm actually in Los Angeles right now working toward that goal. The option's in good hands, and I'm optimistic.

PatrickdeWitt Tue 06-Nov-12 21:52:14

fairy armadillo
interested to know what background research Patrick did. Life in that part of the world, in those days sounds so grim!

I did minimal research. I tried at the start but found it a slog and wound up making things up. After the book sold I did a cursory fact check run through but I didn't adhere to the results unless I felt this suited the book.

Oh, and I'm going to be selfish and flag up my questions too:

Which childhood book most inspired you?

What would be the first piece of advice you would give anyone attempting to write fiction?

(And, if we have time to answer this one, do you think women would have equally rushed for gold? did your research throw up any women who were out there with their own stake?)

PatrickdeWitt Tue 06-Nov-12 21:49:45

sunshine panda
Whilst writing the book were there any violent scenes that you were unsure whether to include and if so how did you reach a decision either way?

There were some I cut, yes. I didn't want it to be violent for the sake of being violent. But, when you write a book about hit men, the bodies do tend to pile up.

PatrickdeWitt Tue 06-Nov-12 21:48:09

southlondonlady
My question: because of Charlie's injury, both brothers will need to make a new life. But if that hadn't happened, do you think that Eli would have had the strength to go his own way? As he seemed very tied to/easily influenced by Charlie.

I don't know, Southlondonlady. I like to think he would have done the right thing but fear he wouldn't have been able to.

Back2Two Tue 06-Nov-12 21:47:08

Hi Patrick. Just wanted to say hello, it's great to read tour answers i'm really enjoying the thred.

I loved The Sisters Brothers. And now, having read some of your answers I love it even more. I like that you're not forcing meaning/s on the reader. It seems like a gentle read with rough edges. A bit like Eli himself. And it would not be complete without the intermissions, even though I got a bit wrapped up with trying to find "the meaning". Now I know, I didn't have to. Thanks, you're a kind author with a lovely style.

I hope there is a film; Coen brothers maybe?

afussyphase Tue 06-Nov-12 21:46:28

Hm, interesting; come to think of it, I guess its non-reactivity is one reason it's so valuable, as it doesn't tarnish, degrade, etc.

PatrickdeWitt Tue 06-Nov-12 21:45:17

ShellyBobbs Tue 06-Nov-12 21:43:47
But it created the mystic that kept the reader thinking about it. Not an easy thing to pull off (if you'll excuse the pun).

You just made me laugh, Shelly Bobbs.

You're probably already onto it, but just flagging up questions up-thread from:

southlondonlady
My question: because of Charlie's injury, both brothers will need to make a new life. But if that hadn't happened, do you think that Eli would have had the strength to go his own way? As he seemed very tied to/easily influenced by Charlie.

sunshine panda
Whilst writing the book were there any violent scenes that you were unsure whether to include and if so how did you reach a decision either way?

fairy armadillo
interested to know what background research Patrick did. Life in that part of the world, in those days sounds so grim!

Apologies if you're already answering...

PatrickdeWitt Tue 06-Nov-12 21:44:37

afussyphase Tue 06-Nov-12 21:37:29
Someone's already asked about how you researched the book - there were definitely some grim times, and in a way, there have been recent echoes of the gold rush in the rush for oil, in Alberta, and the resulting boom... I'm wondering: is there any chemical basis for a formula that could make gold glow like that?

I looked into this - actually my (much more intelligent) uncle looked into it and he discovered that gold in totally inert, and could never be made to glow.

ShellyBobbs Tue 06-Nov-12 21:43:47

But it created the mystic that kept the reader thinking about it. Not an easy thing to pull off (if you'll excuse the pun).

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