Red Tails Movie
A Booker Prize nominated Western book from the author of “Ablutions ”
From the author of the acclaimed Ablutions, this dazzlingly original novel is a darkly funny, offbeat western about a reluctant assassin and his murderous brother. Oregon, 1851. Eli and Charlie Sisters, notorious professional killers, are on their way to California to kill a man named Hermann Kermit Warm. On the way, the brothers have a series of unsettling and violent experiences in the Darwinian landscape of Gold Rush America. Charlie makes money and kills anyone who stands in his way; Eli doubts his vocation and falls in love. And they bicker a lot. Then they get to California, and discover that Warm is an inventor who has come up with a magical formula, which could make all of them very rich. What happens next is utterly gripping, strange and sad. Told in deWitt’s darkly comic and arresting style, The Sisters Brothers is the kind of western the Coen Brothers might write – stark, unsettling and with a keen eye for the perversity of human motivation. Like his debut novel Ablutions, it is a novel about the things you tell yourself in order to be able to continue to live the life you find yourself in, and what happens when those stories no longer work. It is an inventive and strange and beautifully controlled piece of fiction and displays an exciting expansion of Dewitt’s range.
Where to begin? The Sisters Brothers is without a doubt one of the most original and engaging books I've picked up in awhile. After reading, and thoroughly enjoying Mr. DeWitt's debut novel "Ablutions," I was looking forward to reading this.
"Ablutions" is a brief fantastic story of a barman who works at a downtown LA dive. Told in the second person, it mines similar terrority as Denis Johnson and Bukowski, but with a fresh and inventive narrative. For some reason, I expected "The Sisters Brothers" to be more of the same. Another tale of the down and out, the hopeless and deranged. Patrick DeWitt has grown leaps and bounds since his debut and gives us something unique - a good old fashioned Western that rips along like a horse set loose from the corral for the first time in years.
This novel bends genres and acheives something greater than just being a Western. In fact, the story itself is something universal, it just happens to be set during the early days of the gold rush.
Eli and Charlie Sisters are two hired guns sent to California to kill a man named Hermann Kermit Warm. They don't question why he has to die, they simply follow orders. The journey to find Warm is a large portion of the book and allows us the chance to see how different Eli and Charlie are from each other. Charlie is brutal and selfish, a cold hearted killer with vicious instincts, while Eli is a bit softer, open to the beauty in life - or at least the possibility of finding happiness someday.
Eli narrates the story with thoughtful observations and through him we begin to understand the complicated relationship between the two brothers.
I read this book in a storm over two nights. Novels often fall into two categories, at least as far as reviewers are concerned - the literary, and the genre books. Literary means difficult and serious while genre (mysteries, sci-fi, paranormal, romance etc.) are easy and mindless reads. Of course, this is not always the case but it is a hard stigma to fight. What Mr. DeWitt does is completely ignore whatever classification his novel may be given, and tells us a ripping good story full of humor, violence, and heart. Charlie Sisters knows a little something about the way of the world and how greedy and selfish people are at their core. To find a way to be someone different in the midst of all that is Eli's goal, and Mr. DeWitt takes us right along with him.
I loved this book. I loved the way it was told and the way it made me feel. Highly recommended for anyone and everyone who enjoys great fiction.
The Sisters brothers are a couple of hired killers, not much bothered by pesky scruples, and are employed by a man with even fewer scruples. They are headed to Gold Rush country in the 1850s, sent to kill a thief, no questions asked.
Eli, the less violent of the two, tells us his story, and does it in wonderful, formal language of the times. I really liked Eli despite his considerable shortcomings.
As advertised, this book is filled with some very dark humor and terrific, quirky characters. I really enjoyed reading about the brothers' travails, about Eli's very enthusiastic introduction to toothbrushes and toothpowders, his almost compulsive desire to get rid of his money, and his attempts at romance.
Given that, if you are an animal, you don't want to be anywhere near the Sister brothers - it is a given that things will go horribly wrong. I really, really liked Tub, a long-suffering horse. Don't get me wrong: people don't fare any better, and there is more than enough gruesome description to go around. It's just that I really, really hate to read about animal cruelty so that unexpected theme knocked off a star for me. All in all, if you are very sensitive to reading about bad things happening to good animals even when you know it's fiction, you might want to skip this one. For everyone else, it is a fun, odd, escapist read
This was an incredibly entertaining read and certainly one of my favorite 2011 books. Essentially this is a road trip book, following two criminal gunslinging brothers, Eli and Charlie Sisters. They are sent from Oregon City by the Commodore down to the San Francisco area during the height of the Gold Rush to find the prospector Herman Warm and his secret formula.
Dewitt evokes an amazing sense of time and place throughout the novel and the brother's journey down to California. Narrated by Eli, the brothers encounter a cast of hardscrabble souls that went "West" to seek their fortune, prostitutes setting up shop in towns to cater to them and a range of other deceptive and conniving characters along the way. I was equally impressed with Dewitt's ability to tell a great adventure story while creating two main characters with a lot of depth and dimension. I'm surprised and vehemently disagree with others who talked about the violent nature of the novel. Having read a lot of history about the Old West, Dewitt paints a realistic portrait of that time, certainly not a time or place for the faint of heart. The people that went West endured a lot of hardship and were definitely a tough lot, something captured exceptionally well in this novel. Overall, I found this one of my favorite five books of 2011 and look forward to reading Dewitt's first effort "Ablutions".
The tight focus on the Sisters Brothers makes it easy to realize these are not extraordinary men. They are not people who made the best of a bad situation. They are very ordinary, very, very human, and they probably know it. Most of the settlements in the far west don't know that, and the reputation of the Sister Brothers often precedes and exceeds them. The book has a dour tone which reflects the conditions and surroundings of the anti-heroes, but a discerning reader finds the hope and humor inside the head of Eli Sisters.
You will love The Sisters Brothers. I downloaded the sample chapter just because it was shortlisted for the Booker, but I didn't expect much. I never read westerns for example. I do like John Ford movies, but that's about it for me and westerns. Or was. The Brothers are a knockout. Hated to see the book end. Now I am going to read DeWitt's earlier book about a bunch of barflies. It sounds depressing, but I was wrong before and am hoping to be wrong again.
An absolutely outstanding genre bending novel. Probably not for someone who usually reads western genre novels - this has so much more to offer, although I have never read a western so I suppose I am guessing what they are like.
Like Hemingway, the language is brief and minimalist and you are seriously required to read between-the-lines to work out what has actually occurred. In this way the reader actively engages with the story in order to make sense of the themes and issues. Also, the narrator is subjective and he is not in any way to be trusted. Many times he predictably tries to present himself in a better light than his brother and/or his peers.
The chapters are set up like little vignettes, probably in the tradition of early vaudeville acts of the day, and the novel even has two 'intermissions' near the middle. Very clever and interesting.
Like Pulp Fiction, these two psychopathic and hired killers go about their work with dedication and commitment but the literary style minimizes the impact of this and it is only as bloody as you wish to imagine. The author plays here with our ability to sympathise with characters who are basically evil. I found myself enthralled with them and supporting and enjoying their successes.
An outstanding read and I recommend it.
If I had to choose two words to describe this book, they would be "darkly funny". I put off buying it for quite a while, deterred by all the reports of gore and animal violence. The gore--people tend to get shot, quite a lot. However, it's an
efficient killing--no torture, no maiming, nothing like that. The animal violence is much the same, with one notable exeption. However, it is SO easy to form a sympathetic attachment to Eli Sisters! I even grew fond of Charlie by the end of the book. It's populated with quirky characters, likable or not, and was really just so much fun to read. If you have any kind of a warped sense of humor you'll love it!
In the days of the Old West, hired killers Charlie and Eli Sisters set out to track down and kill Herman Kermit Warm on orders from their ubiquitous boss, the Commodore. Eli narrates their adventures and misadventures along the way, revealing a complicated sibling relationship as well as his own growing doubts about the life of violence he is living. The story is riveting from beginning to end: well paced, intelligent, funny, sometimes repugnant, sometimes poignant. I thorougly enjoyed it and believe it is one that will stay with me for a long time.
The Sisters Brothers was a thoroughly enjoyable read with the western humor of The Quick and the Dead and adventurous spirit of True Grit.
“At once dark and touching, The Sisters Brothers has something on every page to make you laugh. Patrick deWitt has given us a gift, reimagining the old west in a thoroughly original manner. Readers are all the better for it.” (Charles Bock, New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Children )
“A gorgeous, wise, riveting work of, among other things, cowboy noir….Honestly, I can’t recall ever being this fond of a pair of psychopaths.” (David Wroblewski, bestselling author of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle )
“[THE SISTERS BROTHERS] is full of surprises, among them…is the quirky beauty of the language Patrick deWitt has devised for his narrator.... THE SISTERS BROTHERS is deWitt’s second novel…and is an inventive and ingenious character study. It will make you impatient for the third.” (Dallas Morning News )
“Funny and strange [and] oddly warm…you’ll find yourself ashamedly pulling for the brothers Sisters like you did for Jules and Vinnie in Pulp Fiction.” (Outside magazine )
“A feast of delights in short punchy chapters.... Deliciously original and rhapsodically funny, this is one novel that ropes you in on page one, and isn’t about to ride off into the sunset any time soon.” (Boston Globe )
“[A]n odd gem...that has one of most engaging and thoughtful narrators I’ve come across in a long time....The novel belongs to the great tradition of subversive westerns...but deWitt has a deadpan comic voice and a sneaky philosophical bent that’s all his own.” (Tom Perrotta's Favorite Fiction of 2011 on Salon.com )
“Original, entrancing and entertaining.” (Denver Post )
“DeWitt’s exploitations of the picaresque form are striking, and he has a wonderful way of exercising his comic gifts without ever compromising the novel’s gradual accumulation of darkness, disgust, and foreboding.” (The Millions )
“By turns hilarious, graphic and meditative, The Sisters Brothers hooked me from page one all the way to 300 — and I could have stayed on for many more.” (NPR.org )
“Thrilling…a lushly voiced picaresque story…so richly told, so detailed, that what emerges is a weird circus of existence, all steel shanks and ponies, gut shots and medication poured into the eyeholes of the dying. At some level, this too is a kind of revenge story, marvelously blurry.” (Esquire )
“Patrick deWitt’s narrator--a hired killer with a bad conscience and a melancholy disposition--is a brilliant and memorable creation.” (Tom Perrotta, bestselling author of Little Children )
“A bright, brutal revision of the Western, The Sisters Brothers offers an unexpected meditation on life, and on the crucial difference between power and strength.” (Gil Adamson, author of The Outlander )
“Mesmerizing… The book seduces us to its characters, and draws us on the strength of deWitt’s subtle, nothing-wasted prose. He writes with gorgeous precision about the grotesque: an amputation, a gouged eye, a con in a dive bar, a nauseating body count [without] macho brutishness.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer )
“Weirdly funny, startlingly violent and steeped in sadness… It’s all rendered irresistible by Eli Sisters, who narrates with a mixture of melancholy and thoughtfulness.” (Washington Post )
“[T]here’s something cinematic about Mr. deWitt’s unadorned prose style, which at first made this reader do a double-take—can this be serious?—only to continue flicking the pages with pleasure.” (Wall Street Journal )
“A masterful, hilarious picaresque that keeps company with the best of Charles Portis and Mark Twain, The Sisters Brothers is a relentlessly absorbing feat of novelistic art.” (Wells Tower, author of Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned )
“DeWitt’s THE SISTERS BROTHERS is a glorious picaresque Western; everything about this book is stylish, from its conceit to its cover design making it a truly worthy inclusion on the shortlist.” (Daily Beast )
“The brothers’ punchily poetic banter and the book’s bracing bursts of violence keep this campfire yarn pulled taut.” (The Onion AV Club )
“If Cormac McCarthy had a sense of humor, he might have concocted a story like Patrick DeWitt’s bloody, darkly funny western THE SISTERS BROTHERS...[DeWitt has] a skillfully polished voice and a penchant for gleefully looking under bloody bandages.” (Los Angeles Times )
“…gritty, as well as deadpan and often very comic…DeWitt has chosen a narrative voice so sharp and distinctive…it’s very narrowing of possibilities opens new doors in the imagination.” (New York Times Book Review )
“This bloody buddy tale of two hired guns during the Gold Rush is weirdly funny, startlingly violent and steeped in sadness — a reaffirmation of the endurance of the Western.” (Notable Fiction of 2011, Washington Post )
“Wandering his Western landscape with the cool confidence of a practiced pistoleer, deWitt’s steady hand belies a hair trigger, a poet’s heart and an acute sense of gallows humor…the reader is likely to reach the adventure’s end in the same shape as Eli: wounded but bettered by the ride.” (Time Out New York )
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