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The Afterlife

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  349 Ratings  ·  47 Reviews
A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
In the winter of 2000, shortly after his mother's death, Donald Antrim began writing about his family. In pieces that appeared in The New Yorker and were anthologized in Best American Essays, Antrim explored his intense and complicated relationships with his mother, Louanne, an artist, teacher, and ferociously destabilizing
Paperback, 195 pages
Published May 15th 2007 by St. Martins Press-3pl (first published 2006)
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The Afterlife by Donald Antrim starts off with a hilarious account of his quest for the perfect bed. Then, as is so often the case with Antrim, the comic turns out to be tinged with tragic. The Afterlife is the story of Antrim's complicated, difficult, and often painful relationship with his alcoholic mother, a relationship that is unresolved by her sobriety or, later, her dying, or her death. It is a relationship Antrim is still looking to comprehend and come to terms with.

I loved the opening o
Oct 08, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Oct 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: postmoderni
la vita, durante l'assenza e dopo la perdita

memoriale di una fase della vita di Donald Antrim in relazione alla sua problematica madre, scritto dopo la morte di lei quando il dolore è ancora là, annidato come fosse un residuo di cui non ci si può liberare, un bagaglio di quelli fatti di roccia e calcare...i ricordi si accalcano e lui fatica a stargli dietro, sua madre è morta di tumore dopo una vita da alcolista, infine pentita, ma ormai tardi quando i danni ai suoi figli, al marito e alla sua s
Oct 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: postmoderni
la vita, durante l'assenza e dopo la perdita

memoriale di una fase della vita di Donald Antrim in relazione alla sua problematica madre, scritto dopo la morte di lei quando il dolore è ancora là, annidato come fosse un residuo di cui non ci si può liberare, un bagaglio di quelli fatti di roccia e calcare...i ricordi si accalcano e lui fatica a stargli dietro, sua madre è morta di tumore dopo una vita da alcolista, infine pentita, ma ormai tardi quando i danni ai suoi figli, al marito e alla sua s
Jonathan Rimorin
Aug 23, 2015 rated it liked it
A collection of Antrim's non-fiction essays, originally published in "The New Yorker," about his family, primarily about his relationship with his mother, a recovering alcoholic, an eccentric fashion designer, and the woman whom he desires distance from and connection to all at once. The first essay details her death, and how Antrim deals with it by searching to buy the most luxurious and expensive bed he can; it's funny and sad and heart-searing. The following pieces, though, don't benefit from ...more
Oct 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Thessaly La Force
Jan 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful writing, excellent humor... obviously my careless "review" will do Antrim's book little justice.
Chris Desmottes
Aug 20, 2009 rated it did not like it
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.
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
There was a zany Barthelme-like quality to the earlier novels I read by Antrim that is completely absent from "The Afterlife." This is not to say that the novels were immature or derivative or that "The Afterlife" is plodding or dry. I think Antrim merely set out to write very different types of books and succeeded at each. There's an ambition, a daring, and an inventiveness in "The Verificationist" and "The Hundred Brothers" that I would say comes with youth, the author hoping to stand out. A l ...more
Trudy Jaskela
Feb 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
I'm tired of reading about dysfunctional families.
Oct 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
review later
Oct 14, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Oct 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Unfortunately, the work of Donald Antrim is best described as frivolous.

He's obviously a smart guy (in a pompous, I know a lot of obscure shit about 19th Century American painting kind of way). Moreover, he's so well connected within the New York literary community that he can basically fluff the first five pages of whatever EXTREMELY LITHE thing he publishes with praise from b-grade critics, Manhattan memoirists, writers-- like himself-- who have to work crummy teaching jobs to cover the rent
Nov 13, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010
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
Sep 25, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
Jul 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
A son's dysfunctional relationship with his alcoholic mother. Although the best chapter in the book may be on his short lived idolization of his "cool" uncle (also an alcoholic, although in his father's side). In this age of "Boo-hoo-hoo, I had such a horrible childhood" memoirs, Antrim tells the stories, but tells of the love there as well. And does not particularly blame. I enjoyed the last 2 chapters the most, where (to me at least) he talks more of the whole family, and not just him and his ...more
Dec 23, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Dec 20, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Jan 14, 2015 rated it liked it
I had never heard of Donald Antrim before reading a profile of him in the NY times. I was so hocked and appalled to see that I was ignorant of a great living American writer. In short order I ordered tow books authored by Antrim on my KIndle. After finishing his memoir the Afterlife I look forward to reading his fiction because this book was good but not great. I really like reading memoirs but I did not find Antrim 's book about struggling with his alcoholic mother neR the top of the list . Gra ...more
Feb 13, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Nov 14, 2013 rated it liked it
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.

Nov 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
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.
Sep 28, 2014 rated it liked it
If you go along with Tolstoy that each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, then in this memoir Donald Antrim tells the way it was for him. It's mostly about his parents unhappy marriage fueled by his father's infidelity and his mother's alcoholism which permeated everything. Not a lot of pleasure in reading about it either, but Antrim is a very fluid writer with an amazing capacity for recalling detail, detail that trauma and love/hate of this mother no doubt seared into his memory.
Jul 15, 2009 rated it liked it
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).
David Rogers
May 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
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?
Nov 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
Jason Makansi
Jan 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Well, maybe a 3.5 or so. I did enjoy it, was drawn to my own mothers recent death, but his mother was much more difficult a being. I understand his enormously ambivalence. Certainly it's a book worth reading.
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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
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