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The Afterlife: A Memoir
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The Afterlife: A Memoir

3.48 of 5 stars 3.48  ·  rating details  ·  234 ratings  ·  35 reviews
From "a fiercely intelligent writer" (The New York Times), a wry, poignant story of the difficult love between a mother and a son
In the winter of 2000, shortly after his mother�s death from cancer and malnourishment, Donald Antrim, author of the absurdist, visionary masterworks Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World, The Hundred Brothers, and The Verificationist, be
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Hardcover, 208 pages
Published May 30th 2006 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 2006)
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Lee
The dictionary definition of "3.5 stars" includes a picture of this one's cover next to it? About dislocation, sort of. Crosses and recrosses ground not necessarily grounded physically (location) or psychologically (cracked up). Repetitions in the story of the author's mother's and uncle's tragic alcoholism for the most part "resist empathy," to use a nice phrase in the book. As with the two other Antrim novels I read ten years ago, I admire his sentences and the unpredictability of his thoughts...more
Andrew
This is more of a 3.5 than a 4, but was still a very good read. It was interesting to see how this "memoir," as the cover states, works b/c it's clearly a series of 7 essays, each written to stand alone. So, taken together, there's a lot of repeated exposition and sometimes scenes/events. And yet, one of the most striking qualities of these essays is how unessayistic they can be. What I mean is, they jump around a lot, not in a way that feels like intentional collage/juxtaposition, but more like...more
Bruce
I keep thinking about this book. It has marvelous stream of conscious writing throughout, although it also seems blah in spots. I think what I like best about it is the beautiful description of fashion as both an art and as a medium of communication at the cultural level. Much of what the author reveals in that segment could also apply to science or mathematics or philosophy or ... Really insightful.

The author's recollections of his mother are at times strong and fill all five senses, while fain...more
Chris Desmottes
Very disappointed. This has been on my "to read list" forever. Just couldn't get into it. It was more just his whining then a story of his mother.
Thessaly La Force
Beautiful writing, excellent humor... obviously my careless "review" will do Antrim's book little justice.
Amy
I bought this book for a pound from one of my favourite bookshops that's in Cambridge. I've found some amazing books in that one pound aisle, including Jodi Picoult (haha! No seriously: I can't stop reading them) and the amazing, all-time favourite Black Swan Green by David Mitchell. For a measly pound! (I cannot recommended this book enough.)

Maybe it was the heavy competition, but I was a little disappointed by this book. That's not to say it's without value - it is well written, and quite char...more
Benjy
I'm of the mind that all three of Antrim's novels are just about perfect, which made this memoir something of a disappointment. In his fiction, Antrim has a knack for burrowing into the roiling consciousness, his narrators becoming buried beneath minutia and self-absorbtion. So I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that his memoir falls victim to the standard disease of the memoir: that the writer believes that since the book is, at last, directly about him, the details of his life are inherently i...more
Gunjan
Oct 02, 2007 Gunjan rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Franzen fans
I had such high hopes for this one after learning that the protagonist was going to express his frustration and sadness over his mother's death through the ordeal he was having buying-and keeping a new bed. Mostly though, I found the rest of the book-beyond the first part, and beyond the bed, to be a sloppy mess of emotions felt by characters as unbelievable as the ones we see in Burroughs' Running with Scissors.

Parts were ok, which is why I can't rate it with just the one star. I did read that...more
Jessica
What's interesting about this book is how often Antrim examines the lives of his family members by examining items, physical things, that he associates with the people, or with events of their lives. Antrim's mother's death is (in an overdone manner) associated with the purchase of a bed; his uncle with a painting (after having first been reduced to piles of sports equipment); his mother with a handmade kimono/robe with wings; etc. That was interesting, Antrim's compulsion to do so, or perhaps i...more
Cosimo
Un libro molto sincero e commovente: l'autore percorre i sentieri della memoria per raccogliere i frammenti dell'amore materno e delicatamente riunirli nella storia di famiglia. Un ritratto affascinante e semplice, ricco di paesaggi e figure, che si sviluppa in aneddoti esemplari, che vogliono far sentire e condividere il respiro di un affetto testardo e coinvolgente.
Carolyn
I'm not sure where I read about this book. Maybe Bookslut? It's a memoir of the author's mother. Her alcoholism, her crazy behavior, their complicated relationship, his family. I found it very moving. But I liked it less at the end than the beginning. Not that I thought "Oh I don't like this book as much as I thought" but rather that I thought the beginning chapters were stronger than the ending ones. The first two parts I couldn't tear myself away from. The increasing insaneness of dealing with...more
Marcia Aldrich
What a writer, but what a disappointment after the absolutely marvelous opening part about his hilarious and heart-rending attempt to buy a bed. Made me wonder if that opening sold the book and then no one paid attention to the rest.
Olivia
The construction of this memoir is extremely skillful; a must-read for anyone whose life has had a brush with alcoholics/ism. Also provides insight regarding the writer's life.
Sandra
Definitely a lot of ups & downs. Some stories were so hysterical and moving I couldn't put the book down. Some stories put me to sleep, specifically the 10 page description of a robe his mother made.
Susie
Maybe I need to stop reading memoirs for a while. A diary is a tool for trying to understand oneself--but do all diaries need to become published memoirs? Antrim is a talented writer and very smart person--but his memoir (mostly about his alcoholic mother) was somehow not engaging as I thought it would be. Raging alcoholism, extramarital affairs, mental instability, divorce and remarriage (by the same couple)--all this would seem to bode well for a memoir, but something was missing--maybe humor....more
Lauren
A half star more would be welcome here.

An odd little slim volume of a memoir. Antrim wrote this after his mother, who was an alcholic, passed away and in five brief chapters manages to sum up much of the chaos of his childhood and early adulthood. Each chapter contains an amazing description of a striking object- a Dux mattress, a painting, one of his mother's kimonos - that almost become symbols of dysfunction.

NOTE TO DIANE S: some of this takes place in Black Mountain, NC.


Lori
This memoir, with its echoes of family alcoholism and lost souls and rambling, and the author's sometimes bewildered effort to make sense, moved me in places. The tone varies between emotional bleakness and sharp nearly academic prose, but it always suits the material. It was the first book by Donald Antrim I've ever read and I look forward to finding others. So many of the family stories haunt me, some I'll remember for a long time. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and will likely read it again.
Jessie
Again, I'm stuck between a 3 and a 4 with this book. It was engrossing, and made me think a lot about psychology. I had read one of these pieces years ago, in the New Yorker, and loved it. But then I expected the book to be a but fuller, somehow--instead it just felt like strung together New Yorker articles. But still, it was funny (despite the very dark subject matter), entertaining, insightful (or at least introspective).
Jason Makansi
I rarely read memoirs, but this one was worth every second. Another Manhattan, published in The New Yorker several years back, I consider the finest contemporary short story at least of the last decade.
David Rogers
Generous, brutally honest memoir of Antrim's relationship with his mother. All of the great invention to be found in his fiction is here applied toward building rich, multi-dimensional characterizations of a family that could have been written off as merely eccentric -- instead, in the end, you understand them. The description of his mother's kimono is itself a performance not to be missed.
Vivienne Strauss
I can't say that I necessarily "enjoyed" this book, I think I was searching for answers to my own volatile relationship with my own mother. Honestly written, often sad. I didn't really find any of the humor that was purported to be here. A little too much jumping around and sometimes difficult to follow. I didn't feel like the author had any resolved feelings but then who does?
David
This is obviously a very different kind of book than Antrim's fiction so it doesn't have the sorts of things for which I usually turn to Antrim, but it is moving and written well. Highly personal, and I don't just mean that it contains personal subject matter since all memoir has that, the book seems to well capture highly complex and conflicting relationships.
nicole
Apr 13, 2008 nicole rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone with alcoholic parent
Recommended to nicole by: professoressa
Shelves: memoir
This is an amazing book. I love Antrim's voice. He's funny, yet sad. And his story is truly tragic. The structure is very interesting, harrowing, and heart-breaking.

Anyone who has ever lived with or known an alcoholic (or has experienced another form of trauma) should read this book.
Ryan Chapman
Mar 05, 2007 Ryan Chapman rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Memoirists?
Shelves: nonfiction, biography
This was certainly a lesser Antrim work. Apparently he saw fit to jump on the bandwagon of novelists phoning it in with memoirs, a la Franzen. While we get Antrim's sui generis prose style, the book itself is a solipsistic mess without revelation or climax. Stick to his novels.
Jennifer
I was excited to read it in that this author had a similiar experience to mine growing up. horribly disappointing. in my opinion, this book is terribly written. very scattered, no direction. the only revelation here is that his life must be staggeringly boring.
Wendy Seles Shelton
Jan 02, 2009 Wendy Seles Shelton rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Memoir Lovers
Shelves: memoirs
The Afterlife tells the story of a man who grows up with an alcoholic mom and how it's affected his life. Sounds depressing, but there's actually quite a bit of black humor in it which takes the edge off of the serious subject manner.
Jan
Amazing memoir of life in a family marred byan alcoholic mother, divorce,etc. The pages about a childhood Christmas (p 159-163) are worth the price of the book.
Leif Erik
Not near as good as his novels. Far too unfocused and for a memoir left way too much information out of what little narative there was.
Sean
Kind of hit-or-miss by chapter, and has a tendency to devolve to endless open-ended questions in place of actual narrative.
Jacob
Excellent family history. Rueful and sad but beautiful and poignant. Looking forward to reading some of his fiction.
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Donald Antrim is an American novelist. His first novel, Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World, was published in 1993. In 1999 The New Yorker named him as among the twenty best writers under the age of forty.

Antrim is a frequent contributor of fiction to The New Yorker and has written a number of critically acclaimed novels, including The Verificationist and The Hundred Brothers, which was a finali...more
More about Donald Antrim...
The Hundred Brothers Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World The Verificationist The Emerald Light in the Air: Stories Doug DuBois: All the Days and Nights

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